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Duck nests near Ag. Sci. building

April 26, 2007

Students walking from the Agricultural Science building to the Agricultural Engineering building might notice a duck nested in a peculiar spot. The duck, a female mallard, has chosen to lay her eggs in a nest right up next to the rear-left window.

“It seems like a very odd place for a duck to lay eggs,” student Michelle Murphy said. “She blends right in with the rocks; I didn’t even notice her at first.”

Female mallards have brown feathers with black spots and can easily blend in with their surroundings.

“Mallards are very adaptable and obviously thrive in areas where other wild birds would not be found,” wildlife biology professor Mark Bergland said. “This particular location seems odd, though, I must admit.”

According to professors in the Agricultural Engineering building, the duck has returned to the same spot for the past couple years.

“I’ve seen him the last two or three years,” said Bill Connolly, who has an office near the bird. “But, other professors down here will tell you longer.”

According to the Department of Natural Resources Web site, it is the male’s job to protect the female duck after the eggs have been laid. Larry Baumann, the campus veterinarian, said he does not think the male duck is doing his job.

“I saw the male duck in the parking lot this morning,” Baumann said. “But he disappears most of the day.”

Both the male and female ducks leave the nesting site unguarded at times.

“We get worried when she’s not there,” Connolly said. “Other animals might break the eggs.”

There are animals in the area that seem to be interested in the duck.

“There is a squirrel that keeps getting dangerously close to the nest,” Connolly said. “Sometimes I go out there and chase him away.”

According to the Department of Natural Resources, all of the eggs hatch together after about 26 to 30 days. The ducks stay in the nest for about 10 hours. When the ducklings are ready to leave, the nest is abandoned and the mother duck leads them to water.

There are disagreements among professors in the Agricultural Engineering building as to what happened to the eggs last year. Baumann suspects a squirrel broke the eggs, but Connolly thinks that they hatched.

“The last couple years the eggs were broken open, and I never saw any ducklings,” Baumann said.

Those who know about the duck do not want to draw attention to it.

“We mostly just leave her alone,” he said. “We worry that students might pick on her.”

Teasing the duck could result in a fine. Chapter 18, Section 6 of UW System Administrative Code states, “No person may remove, destroy, or molest any bird, animal or fish life within the boundaries of university lands except as authorized by the chief administrative officer or except when this provision conflicts with a special order of the Department of Natural Resources.”

Those who know about the duck have grown quite fond of it. Students and professors look forward to seeing the mallard each year.

“I hope it keeps coming back,” student Nicole Rud said.