It’s been over a year since my first attempt at Taxidermy on an European Starling. I’ve Taxied over 100 birds already, surprisingly none of which have been waterfowl. I felt like it was finally time to try one and began researching different methods used to Taxidermy a duck. I patiently waited for the right duck to come along that struck me, adorable and was legal for me to work on.
It happened to be an Indian Blue Runner Duck, that unfortunately died from the cold winter on a Minnesota ranch along with three Ducklings. Not familiar with what a Runner Duck looks like? Neither was I until I looked one up. It was a moment of instant love… OMG, I can’t believe such a funny looking duck exists! Just look at their long necks and how they stand upright.
I first skinned one of the three Rouen Ducklings before attempting the adult Indian Blue Runner Duck, thinking it might prepare me somehow.
Rouen Ducks look very similar to Mallard Ducks. How can you tell the difference between them when born? Rouens have two black stripes on their face, one across their eye and one just under their eye. Mallards only have one stripe, across their eye.
Instead, all it did was remind me of when I had ducklings as a kid..
One day as a kid, my Grandma took my brother and I to a country fair. Inside one of the tents a farmer had set up a something that was really drawing a crowd. I walked over to investigate what all the excitement was about.
Baby ducklings and A LOT of them! The farmer had set up a contraption with a ramp that led up to a slide and then emptied into a small pool of water. At the top, where the ramp met the slide, was a container full of duck feed. But there was a little catch; the feed was just beyond reach of a hungry duckling’s outstretched neck.
The farmer had worked out, that if he put ducklings into the pool of water, they’d climb the ramp, see the feed and try to reach for it. Instead of getting a bite, they’d slide down into the water, just to repeat the cycle over and over again. These were the most determined ducklings I’d ever seen.
I remember as a kid thinking it was the cruelest contraption and wondering how people in the crowd could find this amusing? From that point, I decided I’d have to rescue these animals.
I parted my way back through the crowd of onlookers and found where my Grandma and brother had walked to in the fair. I got them to come take a look. I asked my Grandma if we could take a couple home. She told me they weren’t for sale but just an advertisement for the farmer’s brand of feed. But I didn’t let that stop me.
I went up to the farmer and asked if he’d sell me a couple ducklings. He said no to me just as he had earlier to my Grandma. But I wasn’t taking no for an answer, someone had to at least help out a couple ducks from his evil invention.
We happened to stay late at the fair and vendors started cleaning up for the evening. I made my way back to the ducklings and asked again with a HUGE kid…”but pleeeeeeeeeease!!” It worked and he said I could only have three. I was the happiest little girl in that moment. I hurriedly ran back to my Grandma announcing we could buy some ducklings. I had to tear her away from talking the pants off of some stranger she’d met (which is a difficult undertaking if you know my Grandma) and back to the farmer’s stall.
My Grandma was cool, she didn’t even ask my Mom first if we could have some pet ducks, hah! She bought me all three for who knows how much money. There were yellow and brown ones to pick from and but I chose all brown. When my brother got wind of me with a cardboard box of ducklings he wanted some too of course. I could feel the tension build inside my Grandma with her now thinking she might get in trouble for this when she takes us back to our Mom. Regardless, she bought three for my brother as well. He had to be a little bit different so he chose two brown and one yellow duckling.
For the whole car ride home, I hung my head over that cardboard box watching every little thing these fuzzy dumplings did.
I had no idea how to care for Ducklings and my Mom didn’t either when we got home. The first night she made me keep them in the box outside in the garage. This was the typical routine when I’d bring home an animal without asking. (Which happened a lot.)
We ended up buying chicken wire and building them a spot in the backyard complete with a water bucket and small plastic shelter.
I’ll never forget watching them learn how to swim for the first time…Their fuzzy little bodies would plunge under the water for a short swim then shoot right back up onto the surface, like fishing bobbers. The ducklings used to try and follow me everywhere; even to the school bus stop, in the morning after feeding them.
They grew up quick and we had neighbors. It wasn’t before long that we received complaint of the noise from them quacking. So Mom decided we’d set them free in a nearby park that we frequented. The park had a large pond with ducks we’d often feed leftover bread to in the summertime.
Before releasing them, my brother had the idea of putting twisty ties around the ducklings legs in hopes to identify them when we go back there in summer. I didn’t want to do that because I understood that they’d out grow them and it’d cause problems later for them. Something I hate to think about today.
So it was that one very sad day, we collected our trustworthy ducklings from the backyard. I had to once again peer over my little friends in their cardboard box during a long car journey on my lap. This time with a heavy ball in my stomach.
To this day, I can distinctly remember my mom pulling her station wagon over in the park and it just beginning to rain. I walked over to the water’s stony, concrete bank and tipped the cardboard box on it’s side. I waited for them to waddle out.
When they did, they just followed me as I turned to walk back to the car. I stopped and was so distraught on what to do. I heard my Mom shout, “hurry up, it’s starting to rain”. But I didn’t care about me, I was worried about them! I just stood there in sadness. “Kimberly, get back in the car now!”
I reluctantly got in the car and watched as they followed us drive away as fast as their little legs would carry them. I kept them in view as my Mom drove away like in one of those movies when two lover says goodbye. Heartbroken.
Writing this brings tears to my eyes. I still often think about what might have happened to them. Knowing what I do now, the outcome probably wasn’t good. Gutted.
So with that, it’s an honor to work on my first duckling. Here’s Quackers…
Looking at Quackers really brings back memories.