Ducklings Week 4: Instincts or intelligence?

New wing feathers!

New wing feathers!

Today the sky is very clear. Even though the air is not hot, the sun rays burn and it can be quite uncomfortable near midday, except in the shade. Even the ducks have been hiding in the shade of a bush, when they aren’t swimming!

Back to the discussion of whether cats and dogs are smarter than ducks. I can’t say, since they are such different animals and vary so widely in their physical needs and built-in natural defences, leading to them being either less or more motivated to please a human by responding or reacting to them (for that is how many humans judge intelligence) – it would be unfair to measure them by the same yardstick.

When the sun gets too hot...

When the sun gets too hot…

If intelligence is about survival, I think our ducks are excellent at it. Even without a mother duck to guide them, they seem to be able to judge for themselves what situations are dangerous and which are not; workmen making a lot of noise and tramping around the house are not dangerous, but a raptor hovering silently in the sky overhead is something to be greatly feared.

The ducks also know not to get themselves into trouble unnecessarily. They never venture more than a few metres from the pond, unless I am there  (they will call for me or wait till I am around). After all, they are prey animals near the bottom of the food chain, with no teeth and no claws; and when they are young, no flight feathers.

I would say for certain, that they are smarter than the neighbour’s idiot dog, who may mysteriously disappear soon if it does not stop barking at us all the time….

Don't I look like a mini-dinosaur?

Don’t I look like a mini-dinosaur?

As for being mischievous and naughty (also said to be a sign of intelligence), I’ve read that unlike mammals, birds don’t have a sense of humour. Really, I am not so certain of that – I’ve seen many videos of (pet) birds like parrots and parakeets on Youtube, and some of them definitely seem very playful and like to get their humans to react to them. People who have ducks or geese as house pets also say they are as intelligent and affectionate as a cat or dog – I am sure however that has to do with the level of bonding between the human and the animal – ducks can bond to humans just as, or perhaps even more closely than cats or dogs do, because they “imprint” on their parent(s) at a young age. Ducks (or any animals) who have been hand-raised and spent a lot of time with  humans might also conceivably act in ways which humans deem intelligent, simply because they have adapted to our lifestyles and can understand and accept our ways better than those who have not, and allow themselves to be “trained”.

Aren't we pretty?

Aren’t we pretty?

Check out some of the duck videos from mihaifrancu’s channel on Youtube (e.g.

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