The Story of “Little Zee” – the Duck
The black/emerald green duck with white chest and iridescent purple under-feathers is believed to be a magpie / domesticated mallard cross and was a ‘rehabilitation project’. The male duck was born out of season, in early January 2011 and at three weeks of age, was under-nourished and living on his own proteins when the Salt Spring Wildlife Centre came to his rescue.
Alders Plantation was the next call, where the Wildlife Centre knew there were ducks in residence and had already delivered rehabilitated Red-Eared Sliders (turtles) and Merlin falcons for release at the Plantation.
This little duck was not only under-nourished and dehydrated but covered in his own feces. And because he was born out of season, he had to remain indoors until he feathered, or the cold outdoor temperatures would kill him. After explaining that the duck needed to be kept inside for what could be four or five weeks, the Wildlife Centre rescue team added that he must not be bathed, because without any feathers, he would not dry correctly, be vulnerable to temperature change and would almost certainly catch pneumonia and die.
The Wildlife Centre rescue team was barely past the end of the driveway before the little duck was thrust into the shower and bathed with thick shampoo and soap!! After finishing, he proceeded to shiver and looked quite stunned. It was time to use a hair-dryer. The first glimmer of a personality came to the surface – as the hair-dryer was held at two feet and as the little duck stood on a towel on the floor, he held up his tiny wings, thrust out his chest and oscillated his little body left to right and back, knowing full well how to best utilize the warmth. He so enjoyed this session, it lasted almost twenty minutes. This episode caused him to imprint on the proprietor – and from that day forward, he would hug the proprietor’s chest for security and when held, stick his bill underneath a sleeve or collar as though it were his mother’s wing.
The bird was nursed back to health and could not be placed outdoors until Week 10, hence becoming a “house pet” for several weeks. Some quirks began to appear; the bird seemed content to be touched and pet, and if one stopped, he would nudge like a dog, asking for more attention. His other dog-like quirk: he is often seen chasing his tail!!
The little duck came from a house with three black dachshunds and they clearly had terrorized him in his cage on the floor. At the beginning in his new home, he would viciously attack black objects such as a cordless phone or TV remote control if brought near him. It took awhile, but he is over that now.
In naming him, the Proprietor nicknamed him after a tennis student named Zoran; because the duck was small for his age likely due to the period of undernourishment, he became known as “Little Zee”.
When first introduced to the other ducks (there were four at one time), the male Khaki Campbell tried to kill him, so it was necessary to get rid of all the other ducks except one: a Welsh Harlequin/Mallard cross (called “Big D” for “Big Duck” as he is large in size and too big to fly) that now ‘protects’ Little Zee like a little brother.
After residing outside at Week 10 and figuring out that he really was a duck, Little Zee still makes it clear he likes to come inside to sit on “Mom’s lap” and watch TV – nightly if possible. Though irrepressibly cute, he is still a duck, which means he is “not too smart” and though his vocabulary now consists of the word “sit”, he has yet to learn to be house-broken. If he is brought inside today, he likes to sit on a towel on Mom’s lap and snooze. When “nature calls” he will suddenly wake up, stand up, do a little shuffle with his feet, and sway slightly in an agitated fashion, as if hit by a gust of wind. That is his signal to put him on the towel on the floor. He promptly does his thing, and then jumps back up on Mom’s lap for a little more snooze time. Who knows…for a duck, maybe that is being “house-broken”!!
And he prefers it when Mom drinks beer. Cups of beer are used around the garden to kill slugs – they are attracted to the hops, fall in and drown. Slugs are part of a duck’s diet and Little Zee has learned they taste much better when doused in beer. So there is additional comfort and security when sitting on Mom’s lap if the smell of beer is present!!