War in paradise
Words & images Helen Thompson
Each year, we are witness to the war of the paradise ducks.
At the bottom of our block is a paddock which looks much like any other paddock. There is a small creek running through it, and a couple of old plum trees and a pear tree from the time when humans had a little house nearby and tried to eke out a living between the world wars.
But what makes this paddock so different and so desired from all other paddocks around us is a very old, decaying weeping willow. Halfway up the trunk is a large hole, the perfect place for a mother to lay her eggs.
It’s prime real estate for paradise ducks, and Mr and Mrs Parrie have lived here for several years. We know it’s the same pair as they show us scant regard, while any new ones fly away if we venture too close. They live here year-round, apart from when they join dozens of other paradise ducks during their annual moult where everyone sits around looking miserable. But it’s where the juniors meet their future lifelong partners, and the oldies wait it out until their flight feathers are in order and they can go home.
In mid-august Mr and Mrs Parrie returned home, strutting around the paddock and occasionally seeing off an intruder. It’s the male’s job to run at any newcomers, his wings flashing, honk set to loud. The intruder usually leaves.
But last season must have been good because the numbers of ducks increased while the land acreage remained the same, and nothing else equals our paddock with a willow tree like that.
Suddenly, what was once a peaceful paradise was hosting the invasion of the paradise ducks, all looking for a home. Instead of our one pair, there were four, plus a lone male who must have lost his wife to the duck shooting season.
The new ducks announced their intentions, and I guessed whoever was the strongest would take over the paddock.
the house, like someone was smacking a stick against a post, or distant drums.
They kept up each battle for five minutes at a time, then Mrs Parrie would rush in. She didn’t beat her wings like the males, but once she was close enough to the first female she started pulling out the other’s feathers with her beak. This attack went on for a few minutes, feathers flying, until the new pair retreated.
They could rest, but not Mr and Mrs Parrie – they were now taking on the next pair. A new battle commenced, and then again as each new pair had a go.
The fighting got more aggressive, and the ducks that weren’t involved in the current stouch were standing on the sidelines, hurling duck abuse. They were awaiting the outcome, ready to mount their challenge.
As vicious as this all seems and sounds, the ducks didn’t seem to damage or hurt each other which astounded me. Surely they would break a wing, but we didn’t seen any injuries. The new pairs wouldn’t join in the fray until it was their turn to take on the residents, so it was always one pair at a time – it was a fair fight, but the poor residents got no respite.
The battles continued for almost four weeks, from dawn to dusk. They got less frantic by the third week as all the ducks were tiring, but no-one wanted to give in. They hadn’t eaten much in this time and must have been getting weak. They were all worn down but Mr and Mrs Parrie held on.
Eventually the others flew off, I guess in the hope that they could find another piece of prime real estate. They could come back and have another attempt, but by now the urge to nest or find a home must have been getting very strong. The Resident Pair were left the spoils of the willow tree.
But there was still the solo male and he had no intention of leaving. He didn’t seem to want to move in on Mrs Parrie, but he did want company. We started to wonder if he was one of their 2014 brood who had either lost his mate or never We’d love to hear about your property and its animals, your projects, your life’s moments. Email email@example.com, and if you wish to include images, please send high resolution jpegs.