The sun is out in State College, the birds are bumpin’, and the ducks are back at the duck pond outside of the Hintz Family Alumni Center. Some of the ducks that is.
Anybody with any duck knowledge (I’m looking at you, Ag Majors), may have noticed that the only mallards to spend any time at the pond are exclusively male. We here at Onward State began to worry—where did the lady ducks go? Why aren’t they with their men? Are they alright? We did a little research to find out.
For those of you without any duck knowledge (I’m looking at you, non-Ag Majors), the male ducks are the ones with the beautiful blue-green heads. Head to the duck pond and you’ll see a dozen napping on the rocks or swimming in the water. Meanwhile, female ducks have gray feathers, not often seen by the pond. Sexual dimorphism plagues the gals with a less vibrant color; are they hiding in shame?
Dr. Paul Bartell, Penn State Associate Professor of Avian Biology, explains that it’s really not that complicated. After all, this is the duck pond, not Degrassi High. According to Bartell, the ducks in the duck pond are dabbling ducks. Male dabbling ducks take no part in the actual raising of the child. So basically, they’re dabbling in a whole lot of things except fatherhood.
“When the female ducks start incubating their eggs, the males no longer hang around them and usually flock by themselves,” Bartell explained. So, they turn the pond into a bachelor pad and do their best to ignore their baby mamas. Typical men.
While the boys hang out at the duck-pond-turned-frat, the ladies spend their time at an undisclosed location taking care of the children. They like to stay out of the limelight in order to raise their kids in peace. So, it’s rare to see a female duck waddling around this time of year. Instead, they’ll find some place hidden from others and just do their thing, incubating and such.
Further, it turns out that the duck gender ratios are pretty skewed. “Most populations of ducks have sex ratios skewed towards males as well,” says Bartell, “making the flocks appear even more conspicuous.”
In other words, there are a lot more boy ducks than girl ducks, and they probably wouldn’t be able to get into a frat if they tried.
So, the mystery is solved. This is not a case of sexism, after all. Both genders are welcome in the duck pond, and the lady ducks are out there somewhere. They’re just much harder to find!