The Personality Series: Olga Doodle

O little Olga! She was the biggest of the original Quack Squad, the seven ducklings from Nature's Hatchery that arrived in July 2009. Olga was the duckling one thinks of traditionally when one thinks of ducklings: all yellow, fluffy, one who will grow up to be some sort of white. I could tell Olga from the other two yellow fluffies (Iliya and Noi) in the bunch, because Olga had a bigger butt and when she got wet her eyes bugged out. My sister laughed at her and called her the 'bug eye'. I remember having a synesthesia type experience with these yellow runner ducklings--every time I looked at them my nasal passages filled with the scent of banana popsicles, the kind I used to get at the Malo Store in the late seventies/early eighties. Their color must have matched the banana popsicles so closely that my brain reacted with banana popsicle sensations. I could almost taste the sweet banana cold watching them run around last July.
     There was a short period of time when it was difficult to tell, at a glance, which duckling was Olga and which was Noi as they were both growing feathers and had residual fluff stuck to the ends of their feathers. I began to notice, at a certain angle, that Olga had large fawn patches on both eyes, while Noi had a small patch on her right eye. Over time Olga began to get freckles, too, until her entire bill became freckled.
     Olga's name came about naturally, as do the names of all of my pets. I simply wait for the name to arrive and it does. Olga was heftier than the other ducklings and I already had the boy fawn and white runner named Iliya, so it made sense that she was Olga when the name popped into my head.
     As Olga grew to be a few weeks old she swam in the blue sled that I filled with water in the back yard. She loved to dive and splash with her six duckling friends. She always stayed close to the group, never wandering, and as time went on I noticed she preferred the company of Noi to all others. At first I didn't know why this was the case, but I had read somewhere on a forum, a comment someone had posted, something along the lines of chickens and ducks discriminate, too. This person said they had proof, because their fowl broke up into distinct groups based on color or breed--but this person referred to it as "race". I don't see it this way. Here's why.
     There is no evidence that fowl discriminate based on "race". While it is evident to me, after hundreds of hours of observation, that each bird is an individual and has his/her preferences in many things, even as far as a choice in mating partner is concerned, fowl do not "discriminate" for the empty and ignorant reasons that humans often choose to exclude or commit hate crimes against others. As I watched the seven members of The Quack Squad grow up and mingle with the older drakes Augie, Ming, and Clyde I noticed that the boys preferred Beetle, Bella, Mary, and Emily (all black) over Noi and Olga (fawn and white). Olga would approach Clyde and Clyde would push her away with his bill. She would flirt by bobbing her head to the side, up and down, and make her crackly cackle sound to entice the drakes, but even Iliya, who is a fawn and white drake, would walk away. Finally, Olga and Noi began flirting with the girls, too. On occasion I would see them in the pool, mating with the other girls, going through all of the motions the drakes went through during mating: head bobbing, climbing on top, grabbing the back of the hen's head, wiggling about (minus the penis), and collapsing into the water on their sides and then swimming around in a cheerful frenzy as if something wondrous was accomplished. Did they think they were boys because they were rejected by the boys? How does this work? And why were they rejected?
     Olga is nearly a year old now. She's not a teenager anymore and I don't see her acting like a male any longer. I also don't see the males pushing her away as much, but I don't see her flirting like she did last fall, either. She sits on the nest and lays an egg every single day like clockwork. So why did the boys prefer the black females? I believe it is a natural selection process. When my flock is resting in the afternoon they're spread about the lawn like garden ornaments. The black ducks can rest in shade and the brown ones blend in with the dirt. The white or fawn and white ducks, however, stand out against the dirt, they glow in shade, and they contrast green grass like a glow strip. Who will the predators spot first?
     My conclusion is that Olga and Noi, being the only two light colored hens, were rejected due to their inability to camouflage well. It makes sense that the males would choose to mate with hens who can hide well. I don't know if this is a conscious decision on the drakes' part or if they are like most people and have a basis for attraction to ensure successful genetic outcomes. (For most humans there is a desirable identity in mind when it comes to choosing a sexual partner.) Furthermore, Olga is fawn and white due to selective breeding by humans, something that would not have happened to her in the wild as she is derived from wild mallard ducks which are from the subfamily Anatinae, which are dabbling ducks, and they are not white. There are at least fifty species of dabbling ducks throughout the world. Many come in bright colors, but it seems rare to find dabblers that are pure white or close to it. Most are rather mottled, with drakes containing some bright plumage.
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