The Occidental community lost half of its beloved duck couple this weekend. On Sunday, April 20, amid Easter festivities, the female fountain duck was found belly-up in the same reservoir that a few weeks ago had served as the site of conception for her recently-laid eggs.
Two students looking to showcase the ducks in a video project were some of the first people to notice her absence.
“Sam Bellamy and I were filming a Spanish project about a poem called Meciendo, which is about a mother’s love and the love of nature, so we figured the ducks would be the perfect subject to film. But when we got there, one of the ducks was floating face up in the fountain while the other swam close beside her,” undeclared major Jane Drinkard (first-year) said. “It was really awful and disturbing and horribly ironic and we didn’t really know what to do.”
The cause of death has not been confirmed. According to assistant professor of biology John McCormack, who had been monitoring the ducks for several weeks, the female had been severely injured in the days leading up to her death.
“She was gone for a while because she was incubating eggs in a nest somewhere under Herrick bridge,” McCormack said. “Then about a week ago, we started seeing her around more and she seemed to be injured. Facilities let us know that the nest had basically been destroyed. So we speculated that some sort of predator like a coyote, raccoon or dog found the nest and the duck and injured the duck and destroyed the nest.”
A group of students who encountered the duck limping Thursday night worried they may have accidentally killed the duck with kindness.
“I was sitting by the fountain with a few peeps, and the duck was sitting [just outside the fountain] in a pool of it’s own filth,” Diplomacy and World Affairs (DWA) major Wilson Terrall (sophomore) said. “Someone walked up close to it to talk or something, and it tried to climb into the fountain but stumbled and hurt it’s leg. My guess was a stress fracture. So [Weekly staff member] Emma Lodes put the duck into the fountain, lifting it with Collin Evenson’s sweatshirt. And the rest is history.”
McCormack reassured the students that they had little to worry about.
“It was hurt for a couple days and it was kind of hanging on but we didn’t think the prospects were very good. It was not going to make it one way or another,” McCormack said.
The ducklings are also not projected to survive.
“I think that had it not been taken out by a predator they would have successfully hatched a brood,” McCormack said. “It’s a definite bummer. We needed ducklings.”
Occidental’s duck couple appeared on campus at the end of March.
“In the winter, ducks congregate
in bigger groups and then when the breeding season hits, they form into pairs
and fly into the urban landscape,” McCormack said. “They disperse out there and find little places to settle down to raise their brood.”
Upon arrival at Occidental, the ducks seemed to attain instant celebrity status. On April 9, the Facebook page “Oxy Confessions” featured a photo of the couple with the caption, “This could be us but you playin’,” and received 370 likes.
“Confession 3106 has officially received the most
likes so far,” the “Oxy Confessions” moderator wrote. “I was very saddened to hear about the death of
the Oxy duck.
I can honestly say that I enjoyed seeing those
two ducks always together everyday. RIP Ducky, Oxy will miss you.”
Some considered the couple a symbol of love on campus, which explains how they earned the informal superlative, “Oxy’s favorite couple.” Students submitted more duck-related confessions once news broke about the female’s pregnancy.
“The hatching of the Oxy ducklings is legitimately one of the things I’m looking forward to the most for the rest of this semester,” Confession No. 3174 read.
After the duck’s death, students used the confessions page to express their grief. One April 29 submission — a eulogy to the fallen duck — garnered 194 likes.
“You were a good duck,” Confession No. 3201 read. “You circled the fountain like no other and kept Mr. Mallard happy. Your days of waddling around the fountain’s edges may be over, but your memory lives on.”