Sunday, December 23, 2007
A Whitey Christmas
This is my buddy, Whitey. My girlfriend and I first met him in the summer at Central Park. He kinda sticks out at the Pond amidst a bunch of Mallard ducks. Some people know him as Wiggles, Quackers, or Willie, but to us, he's Whitey. Whitey is an Indian Runner Duck, and while related to Mallards, Runner Ducks are domesticated. Theoretically all the animals in Central Park are wild, but you might ask how did a Runner Duck make it to Central Park? The sad reality is that someone probably got him as a cute little chick, and he became too much to handle, and some asshole abandoned him in Central Park thinking he'd be ok with the other ducks.
Yeah, I know. It sucks, but Whitey is ok. He's got lots of buddies, and apparently he's got a couple of grown up children, so he's not doing so badly. My girlfriend and I started feeding the ducks crumbled up granola bars, and we moved to birdseed. After doing some research, we quickly learned that feeding any bird crackers, torn up bagels, pretzels, and bread is generally a bad idea, because birds cannot digest processed flour products. It leads to engorged fatty organs, heart conditions, and other debilitating ailments. Whole grains and wild bird seed mixes (non-medicated) are higher in protein and generally suitable to feed ducks. Still, be careful. Some park conservancy workers may not understand or appreciate why you'd want to feed the ducks, or worse -they may be able to fine you.
Virtually every argument for NOT feeding wild birds does not apply to Whitey. Runner Ducks cannot migrate because they generally can't fly for great distances. He is not a wild bird. He is a domesticated duck that was abandoned. He is sharp as a tack, although my girlfriend and I sometimes think he's dumber than a sack of hammers. We love him dearly. It didn't take long for him to recognize us, and he knows we'll always have treats for him. He'll waddle up to the fence or tentatively come to us directly and eat from our hands. I remember when I first started doing the research about what to feed Whitey, a nice person at The Audubon Society said that the important thing is to regularly feed the animals. You can't just feed them once or twice and then go on to something else. That would be just as bad as the bastard who abandoned Whitey when he was a little chick.
My girlfriend and I get up extra early 4 times a week to walk over to Central Park with our breakfast and a couple ziploc bags full of bird seed. We'll pick up big bags of wild bird seed regularly, and I found a hardware store in Ithaca, NY that regularly makes trips to Manhattan to take care of things like the Mounted Police, Circuses, etc. We're gonna get waterfowl pellets, food specifically made for ducks, geese, swans, etc. It's a slight pain in the ass, but Whitey may be hungry, lonely, or maybe he's just bored with the same old diet. Why wouldn't he and the other ducks like good nutritious treats? Why shouldn't they be spoiled rotten? We're never gonna give up on Whitey and his buddies. Recently they all started to come up to us and eat from our hands. I'd like to think it's because they understood that we're not gonna hurt them, and that we love them, but I know it's because they're hungry as Hell.
Still, we love them, and especially now during the Holidays when we are flooded with messages of warmth, friends, family, and good karma, how could we not want to make sure that at the very least they have more to eat?