Duck and Egret Meet to Dine

Of late, on walks to the ocean, I often see a duck and an egret foraging together.

Duck and egret

A female duck and an egret fish and forage together.

They wade, waddle, stalk or paddle in the little strait that joins Mecox Bay

Mecox Bay at sunset

Sunset reflected in Mecox Bay

to saltwater Channel Pond.

Great blue heron flies over Channel Pond

A great blue heron flies over Channel Pond.

The unprepossessing little white bridge that passes over the channel is one of the best spots around for spotting herons and egrets.

Bridge on Flying Point Road

The little bridge on Flying Point Road.

A great blue heron or a snowy egret is almost always fishing in the shallows at one side of the bridge or the other.

Snowy egret

A snowy egret wades across the water.

Sometimes there are more than one.

Two snowy egrets

Two snowy egrets share a fishing spot.

Lately, a solitary female duck has been dabbling here. Sometimes she is on her own.

Female duck

Lady duck on her own.

But more often she shares the spot with a snowy egret.

Duck and egret

Now and then another bird joins the fine fishing spot, as did this belted kingfisher, perched on a piling to the left.

kingfisher and duck

Belted kingfisher sits on piling while duck rests below.

You can’t see it in the photos, but the snowy egret was also present, although hidden behind low-hanging branches on the right.

kingfisher flies off

The kingfisher flies to another perch.

There are plenty of egrets around, so it’s possible that the duck is with a different egret each time I see it.

Snowy egret and duck

But I prefer to imagine that she and a particular egret, despite their differences in shape, eating habits and behavior, have forged a friendship of sorts.

If I were Beatrix Potter, I’d write and draw a story about unlikely companions.

The Pie and the Patty Pan

Ribby, Duchess and the doctor from The Pie and the Patty Pan by Beatrix Potter

But lest I seem to have wandered too far into cozy animal fantasyland, I’m well aware that the larger herons and egrets eat ducklings whenever they can get them.

Still the ability to kill doesn’t negate the possibility of companionship. Just look at us humans. And watching animals, domestic and wild, teaches me that within the general behavior of each species is plenty of room for individual variation, including behaviors that lie outside the norm.

So I think I’ll reserve the right to imagine that this particular duck and this particular egret are so often spotted together because, quite simply, they take pleasure in each other’s company.

Mr. Snowy Egret and the Solitary Duck

Ah me, if only I could draw. Well, here is a drawing of a waterbird by someone who can – Sophie Webb, biologist and illustrator.

Western Grebe by Sophie Webb

Western Grebe by Sophie Webb. Click to see more of Sophie’s work.

Explore posts in the same categories: 2012, Art and Literature, Birds, Fall, In the Country, Seasons, Wildlife/Natural History

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13 Comments on “Duck and Egret Meet to Dine”

  1. […] Out walking the dog tracking nature in the city & other NYC odysseys « Duck and Egret Meet to Dine […]

  2. “Duck and Egret”. It brings to mind Arnold Lobel’s classic children’s series – Frog and Toad.

  3. A lovely tale of an unlikely pair! Isn’t it surprising just how many different species interact …. my neighbour was out walking her young golden retriever when an otter dashed out of the water to have a quick romp on the beach with the dog…?!

  4. Barbara Says:

    Delightful – I’m convinced that unlikely friendships exist between different species as well – so your mallard and egret are likely pals in some way… great story! Great pictures – all stimulating to the imagination.

    • Thanks, Barbara. Of course, in the two days since I wrote that post, I have only once seen the duck. Instead, the egret (always at its post!) is hanging with a Great blue heron and the kingfisher. Hmmm.

  5. mthew Says:

    Scale’s a funny thing. I was looking at a Snowy yesterday, near a Herring gull at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, and thinking it looked awfully small, as it does here next to a Mallard, but of course it’s all perspective. The egrets must be lining Long Island’s coasts. Here at the western end, in one spot yesterday, were five Greats and five Snowys.

    • Andre Says:

      I love Breezy Point and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge…. I saw my first Osprey at the Refuge. I heard they are in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx too… I want to try and get there.

    • Agreed: scale is a funny thing. So is color. Both can be deceptive. You can see the Snowy next to a Great blue in this post: What a Day: Wildlife on Long Island . It’s wee. As for seeing all the egrets and herons, the truth is that when I’m out here, I’m just so happy to be right here that I don’t go anywhere outside my own little local, narrow focus. Happily for me, it’s a beautiful spot and a great place to bird.

  6. Mr. Mantooth Says:

    Magical. And you do draw. More on the Snowy Egret and the duck. More drawings with captions too. Thoroughly enchanted by this post.

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