Hen mallards sharing nest

Mthuntr

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We have a mallard nest in a creeping juniper bush next to my office window. They are literally 2 feet from my desk. At first it was a hen checking things out with her drake keeping watch. She decided she liked the spot and laid a clutch of eggs and plucked a bunch of feathers. The drake comes by occasionally but for the most part only in the morning (probably a court ordered visitation :sneaky:) though he may be chilling out all night. Anyway the last couple days we've noticed that our one hen and drake is actually 2 different hens sharing nesting duties. They for sure swap out nesting duties around 7am. One hen will fly in and hang out by the nest and they chitchat for a few minutes (soft quacks) and then quickly swap positions on the nest. After the swap, the now relieved hen will quack like crazy and flap her wings for maybe 30 seconds then fly away. I'm not entirely sure I know when the hens swap out in the afternoon or if they do 24hr shifts. So I guess we have some sort of Millennial Duck Throuple.

I was completely unaware of this behavior in fact I've not known drakes to visit the nest post breeding and really couldn't find much on hens sharing a nest. Anyone know if this is relatively frequent and I've not ever noticed or is this unique?
 

Scott85

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That sounds pretty cool. Have you been able to count eggs in the nest?
 

Mthuntr

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A week or so ago, a magpie chased a hen off the nest and there were at least 8 eggs visible. I think she/they were still laying and hadn't yet plucked many downy feathers. Now they swap out spots so well you can't see anything but hens
 

BrentD

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That drake must be a polygamist....only logical explanation.
Actually, all drakes try to be polygamous, but that's not news at all. It's the 2 females, one nest thing that is pretty unusual. You might try to document it with video somehow and see if anyone at Cornell's Bird Lab has heard of anything like it.
 

BrentD

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Cooperative nesting and brood rearing is common for a number of bird species. It has been documented in some waterfowl species, but as a group it isn’t as common for waterfowl as it is in some other groups. Cool that you get to see an example!
Are those examples including on-nest cooperation? Post-hatching, sure, but I'm not aware of a species that does this with any frequency at all in pre-hatching. Would they be cavity nesters?
 

Hunting Wife

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Are those examples including on-nest cooperation? Post-hatching, sure, but I'm not aware of a species that does this with any frequency at all in pre-hatching. Would they be cavity nesters?
Yes. IIRC, female waterfowl sharing nest attendance has occurred in high density nesting situations or when suitable nest sites are limited. Not common, but not unheard of. Common eiders for sure, and I want to say some whistling duck species and maybe masked duck? It was a dinner discussion at a conference long ago so I’m a little fuzzy on the specific species at this point.

Outside of waterfowl, the best example in North America is among woodpeckers. Acorn woodpeckers in particular are somewhat notorious for it. My parents used to have a nest in their backyard in Oregon and it was something to watch.
 

TheBenHoyle

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This makes me laugh because I can't even tell you how many times I have heard someone say, "You know, ducks mate for life." I think people just like to anthropomorphize moral behavior based on "common knowledge" that comes from incomplete observation. The natural world is a dirty place full of sexual reproduction, driven by animal hormones. Let's see Disney make a movie of that...
 

gouch

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Had a trio of chickadees In one of my nest boxes one year. One male two female. When the chicks left the nest it looked like a swarm of bees. Must have been 15 to 20 of the little critters.
 

Mthuntr

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Got video of the exchange...I'll have to edit the sound somehow because coworkers were talking about private matters

there are 2 distinct hens and the drake comes with replacement hen and leaves after the swap.
 
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