Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Learning | Ducks

Melvin the Muscovy
One of my brothers spent most of his free time exploring the wildlife in our neighborhood. He was always bringing home snakes, frogs and other critters.  In fact, my mother learned to check his pockets carefully before doing the laundry--she nearly washed a small turtle with his clothes. One day, he was fishing in a canal, and found a fluffy yellow duckling. He looked around for its mother, but there were no other ducks around. He brought it home and named it Melvin.  

Muscovy duck and her ducklings. Photo by northdevonfarmer via Some rights reserved.
Melvin was very friendly, but he was, if you will pardon the cliché, an odd duck.  

He never quacked, not even once. He made a sort of musical trilling noise. He followed me around while I played in the yard; it was almost like having a dog.  As Melvin's yellow downy feathers were replaced by white feathers, red caruncles started to form around his bill. That's when we were able to use a book to identify him as a muscovy duck--the kind that don't quack.

Melvin had one more surprise for us.  When he matured, he started laying eggs. He was a she! We never successfully found a female name to call her. Melvina and Melvira just sounded wrong. So Melvin she remained, until the end of her days.

Books About Ducks
Some fiction books serve up information in the most delightful way.  Take, for example, Just Ducks!, a book by Nicola Davies, with pictures by Salvatore Rubbino.  

Just Ducks!
It tells the story of a young city girl. She describes her day, living close to a river inhabited by mallard ducks. Her descriptions include the ducks' activities and the sounds they make.  In a smaller font, there are facts about ducks and their behavior.  

The illustrations show such a beautiful place, that you'll want to imagine being there.  I could almost hear the ducks quacking, when I read this book. I wonder where the little girl lives. What city do you think this might be?

Bruce McMillan wrote a non-fiction book called Days of the Ducklings.  The story tells of Drifa, a young girl in Iceland, who raises eider ducklings to restore the population to her small island. Because this is a true story, we are able to see pictures of Drifa with the ducklings, and see how they grow.  

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