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An open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond

Has anyone seen a fat, white, flightless duck?

Until very recently all I knew about Peking duck had been learned in a Chinese restaurant.

 

Then, I received an email from Laura Champaigne of Mound. She wants to rescue three Peking ducks that might be on the loose in the Lake Minnetonka area. This is not for a dinner, but because she is, she says, an animal lover.

 

She is worried for the obvious reason: Lake Minnetonka has but scraps of open water today (Dec. 15), most of it around aeration pumps at boat docks. Not good for ducks.

 

Why write to me? If you read this blog you saw several days ago photos of coots in a small pool of open water in Wayzata Bay. The coots were being taken to lunch by Bald Eagles. In the coot photos was a white duck with an orange bill. 

 

I could not identify it. Peking ducks are not in any of my bird identification books. Cook books, yes, ID books no. Peking is a domestic breed becoming popular as pets. Peking ducks are heavy, fat birds. They can neither fly nor dive, Laura says, odd ducks indeed.

 

Laura knew right away that the duck in my photo was one of the ducks that needed help.

 

She thinks the trio of vagrant ducks were pets whose owner became unhappy with the idea. He/she dumped the

 

 

ducks on Lake Minnetonka shoreline near Wayzata. The ducks were seen in the area last summer. They had months of freedom.

 

She is afraid now that the ducks, if alive, will starve.

 

This fall, Laura and friends organized a rescue trip, winter on the way. It didn’t go well.

 

They used a boat and tried to net the ducks, then down to two. These ducks might be fat and flightless, but they are very fast swimmers, she says.

 

Laura and friends were at Gray’s Bay last week to try again. The ducks had been seen in the area. The rescue party soon learned from a shoreline resident that two ducks had left frozen Gray’s Bay, waddling across Highway 101 to Wayzata Bay.

 

Laura logically believed that the lone white duck in my Wayzata Bay photos was one of the missing Pekings. I had been curious why the duck didn’t fly or dive with eagles constantly overhead. The eagles certainly sent the coots into a tizzy.

 

Fate of the other ducks is unknown. Right now, Laura just wants to rescue what appears to be the sole survivor. If captured, she would find care for it. (Humane Society, Chicken Run Rescue in Minneapolis.)

 

The chances of finding this bird or its companions cools with the weather. Prospects are dim, the trail cold. But you never know. Laura thinks Spirit Island at the mouth of Wayzata Bay is worth a look —  by someone properly equipped for the effort.

 

Do not venture onto the ice yourself with heroics in mind. That is a bad idea.

 

If you see a fat waddling white duck, find someone to help it. 

 

Peking ducks can live to 8 or 9 years old if well-cared for, an advantage these birds did not have. Good for Laura and her friends. Shame on the duck dumper. All animals kept as pets or curiosities deserve the same care and consideration you’d give your dog or cat. If you can’t handle ultimate responsibility, don’t take the animal home.

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Lake Minnetonka merganser flock vastly smaller today

The several thousand Common Mergansers that had gathered in a flock on Lake Minnetonka, seen Wednesday, have by today (Friday) dwindled to perhaps 200. The remaining stretch of open water at the site now is at least a quarter mile offshore. My ID today was made by enlarging photos that found certain birds to be mergansers, but did not allow definitive ID of most birds in the flock. Since the vast majority of birds there Wednesday and on several preceding days were  Common Mergansers I’m assuming that is the case today. There was one Canada Goose on the ice, and one Bald Eagle flyover. On Wednesday there were at least 17 Bald Eagles on the ice or adjacent shorleine. The location is the main body of the lake east of the Arcola Bridge on County Road 15. The birds are best seen from the south shore. A spotting scope is necessary.

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