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Nature Life: Ducks And Nature

By Obiabin Onukwugha

Duck is the common name for numerous species of waterfowl in the family Anatidae. Ducks are generally smaller and shorter-necked than swans and geese, which are members of the same family.

Ducks are mostly aquatic birds, and may be found in both fresh water and sea water.

Ducks eat food sources such as grasses, aquatic plants, fish, insects, small amphibians, worms, and small molluscs.

Along the edge of the bill, there is a comb-like structure called a pecten. This strains the water squirting from the side of the bill and traps any food. The pecten is also used to preen feathers and to hold slippery food items.

Ducks have webbed feet, i.e., their toes are joined together by a thin flap of skin. These help them to swim easily in water. The feathers on the body of ducks are covered with an oily layer to make them waterproof. So, their body is always dry and warm.

If a duck is both tired and cold, it’ll tuck one leg into its feathers and close its eyes.

Although ducks can spend most of their time outdoors, on ponds or in wet areas, they require a clean dry sheltered area where they can retreat, rest, clean and preen their feathers. This allows them to waterproof their plumage, which protects their skin from injury and helps keep their body warm.

Ducks generally only have one partner at a time, although the partnership usually only lasts one year.

Ducks also tend to make a nest before breeding, and, after hatching, lead their ducklings to water. The incubation period of ducks is 28 days.

Some ducklings can be orphaned by inconsistent late hatching where a few eggs hatch after the mother has abandoned the nest and led her ducklings to water.

Female mallard ducks make the classic “quack” sound while males make a similar but raspier sound that is sometimes written as “breeeeze”.

They are called “agwagwa” in Hausa, “ewure” in Yoruba and “Obogwu” in Igbo.

Ducks have many predators such as pike, crocodile, snake, snapping turtle, heron, foxes, hawks and owls. But under favourable conditions ducks can love up to twenty years.

Ducks sre of economic benefit to farmers. They require less care than chickens, are less susceptible to disease, and can provide meat and eggs. By foraging on slugs, snails, grubs, mosquito larvae, damaging beetles, grasshoppers, and many more insect pests, ducks contribute to healthy environment and ecosystem

The Duckling and the Heaven’s Hook

Among all creatures, the duck is the most amazing. It can live on the ground, can swim on the water, and can fly in the air. Other animals wish they are endowed like this magnificent bird, but life is not programmed to accommodate all wishes. Whenever the Ducks pass, those that see them would say: ‘The earth belongs to the Duck. They lack absolutely nothing.’

However, once upon a time lived among the Ducks, Obogwu, a Duckling, who could not swim. This brought shame and contempt to her among other ducks. She has tried all she could but still could not float.

One day Obogwu decided to seek solution to her shame. Obogwu searched everywhere until she found Mbe, the tortoise, who was a great sorcerer.
Seeing Obogwu, Mbe said: ‘To whom do I owe this visit. The earth belongs to the Duck. They lack absolutely nothing.’

In a teary voice, Obogwu said to Mbe: ‘It is true what you said. But I am a duck that cannot swim. I have been ridiculed by my kind and I have gone everywhere in search of a solution. I beg you, the wise one, make me a talisman that can keep me afloat on water.’

Mbe laughed at her story and said to her: ‘You are very lucky. I have a magic hook for you. When you go swimming, you hook it in the sky. Jump into the water, and then paddle your feet. Since it is hooked to heaven, you will never sink.’

Giving her a little curved branch, Mbe took Obogwu to the pool in his backyard and ordered her to test Heaven’s hook. Obogwu, still frightened, raised the Heaven’s hook and jumped into the pool. As she moved her feet, she sailed effortlessly on the pool. She was so delighted and asked Mbe what the talisman would cost her.

Mbe said to her: ‘It will cost you nothing. But soon, it will reveal what you don’t know about yourself.’

From that day on, always wielding the Heaven’s hook, Obogwu started swimming better than other ducks. She was so good that other ducklings became jealous of her. As naive as she was, she shared her secret with her peers.

So one night, while Obogwu was asleep, other ducklings plotted to drown her. They took away the Heaven’s Hook and replaced it with an ordinary stick. They woke her up in the wee hours and said to her:

‘One of us is in the middle of the sea; please, with the aid of your Heaven’s Hook, only you can rescue her.’

Without suspecting anything, Obogwu took the stick beside her and ran to the sea. She swam so amazingly that even the fishes in the Ocean raised their head above the Sea to admire her magnificent sail. The Shark sang her praise, the Dolphin danced for her, and Whale escorted her back to the shores.

‘I didn’t see any troubled Duckling in the Sea,’ Obogwu told other ducklings. But they were jealous that Obogwu was celebrated by the Sea creatures.

‘You lied to us, Obogwu,’ the leader of the Ducklings bellowed. ‘You told us that you the Heaven’s Hook was responsible for your magnificent sails, but you sailed the sea without it.’

‘I was with it,’ Obogwu softly said. ‘You know I can’t swim without the Heaven’s Hook.’

‘No,’ the leader replied. ‘We replaced the Heaven’s Hook with an ordinary stick. You made a fool of us.’

That was when Obogwu realized that she swam with an ordinary stick. It ran from there to Mbe, and confronted him.

‘You would have killed me, Mbe. What you gave to me has no magical power.’

Mbe laughed and replied: ‘But I told you the Heaven’s Hook will cost you nothing. But soon, it will reveal what you don’t know about yourself.’

Sometimes, we seek an external power for something inherent in us. You are more powerful than you think.

 

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