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Ducks/geese being kind of...racist?  RSS feed

 
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So, I'm sure I didn't describe this well, but my friend has a flock of approximately 30 birds. There's only one dark-colored duck and the ducks AND geese all exclude this one duck. There are also a few that are more grayish and they group together and sometimes allow this one duck to hang but she is getting bullied. This is something he's observed in his poultry over time, that they're really "cliquey" and weird like this. I'm probably anthropomorphizing it by calling the situation racist but it's sad to see and we are distressed for this duck!
The plan to relocate this one duck to my much smaller flock of one duck, one chicken and one goose. However, they're all lighter-colored/white too and I'm really hoping this same pattern doesn't repeat!
Does anyone have experience with these types of flock dynamics and know anything I can do to try and prevent this pattern from re-manifesting?
And what's up with his ducks being that way?

Thanks so much everybody! I hope the title didn't offend anyone! This has been really bothering us and I'm thankful for every reply. <3
 
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Hello!

They are probably different breeds, or a mix from different breeds with different traits being expressed, including personality and temperament. This "birds of a feather flock together" attitude, would appear to be in part what creates and maintains diverse species and biological diversity in nature, which insures diversity and the survival of that particular genus or species. If this wasn't the case, wouldn't we all just be one celled organisms, who evolved the same, and looked exactly the same? Where's the biological diversity to insure every species needed to maintain ecological ballence would survive to fill those necessary ecological rolls? A genus will typically play a very important roll in creating environmental ballence to sustain a healthy environment, not to mention have an important roll in holding up the food chain/web.

When we try to domesticate various creatures, those latent genes are still there, which is why to maintain breed standards in absence of natural selection for those traits, culling to maintain breed standards is important even regarding temperament and social interaction. That being said, even birds have a "pecking" order, so maybe you just have a sensitive or unlearned duck regarding appropriate duck edict. I've often observed flocks treating one duck with less regard, but in careful observation, I've never seen it relate to color. Rather it appears more relevant to the individuality of a particular duck like age, size, temperament and personality as the relate to the flock dynamic. Its the same reson why a show judge, doesn't pick some ducks to be 1st or 2nd place winners even when they're all the same color, since temperament, personality and posture can also be major factors. Things could be as simple as, the birds have paired up in two or three member breeding groups, and those established breeding groups don't want that duck to be part of their action. Check out Ostich sociology and family dynamics amongs an established breeding group of ostichs. So this distinction in sociological group perception of a species, and as it relates to breeding and pecking order, is in part how nature naturally selects genetics to survive and evolve. Its just nature at work, and it appears even tribalism is one way nature has worked to create biological diversity, and insure diverse life will survive.

I personally wouldn't read into it, or personalize it. If its a cool duck who has evolved to that level of sensitivity, maybe he needs some human companionship, who will offer him more interspecies compassion, amids a flock of tribalistic fowl. ☺

Hope that helps!
 
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I see similar patterns with my guineas - two white (lavender) birds that get the ever loving crap beat out of them by the dark (pearl) birds. They apparently have some in group preferences. It's usually wilder in the spring when they are figuring out mating pairs - and it's particularly crazy since I only have 2 female versus 8 male birds. One of pearls somehow fell below the lavenders in the pecking order. He'll pick a fight with a lavender and start to win until the two lavenders team up to beat him. It bothered me at first but I find it funny now. Dynamics will change as I start hatching keets this spring, then there will be more females and other lower-order birds to take the laverders' place. They have no problem all getting along in the summer/fall/winter.
 
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It would seem that one duck is lowest on the totem pole, Like the others have mentioned, pecking order rules the flock and if one doesn't show any aggressive behavior it will be the last in that pecking order.
This sort of thing also happens when new birds are introduced to an established flock, the new comers will be bullied until they show that they belong higher up the ladder of order.
As R. Steele mentioned it is the same, tribal behavior, the strongest get the best of everything, food, mates, sleeping spot and all the rest.

Humans usually commit the error of trying to put human values upon animals, which never works because the species is not human.

The "herd" is pretty much telling you which duck should be put on the dinner table first.
 
Jennings Ingram
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Wow, thanks everyone for your thoughtful and quick responses!!
T

This "birds of a feather flock together" attitude, would appear to be in part what creates and maintains diverse species and biological diversity in nature, which insures diversity and the survival of that particular genus or species. If this wasn't the case, wouldn't we all just be one celled organisms, who evolved the same, and looked exactly the same? Where's the biological diversity to insure every species needed to maintain ecological ballence would survive to fill those necessary ecological rolls? A genus will typically play a very important roll in creating environmental ballence to sustain a healthy environment, not to mention have an important roll in holding up the food chain/web.



I really hadn't thought about it that way, R. Steele. My human worries were totally running rampant and now I see that biologically this does make some sense as to why they would behave this way.

That being said, even birds have a "pecking" order, so maybe you just have a sensitive or unlearned duck regarding appropriate duck edict. I've often observed flocks treating one duck with less regard, but in careful observation, I've never seen it relate to color. Rather it appears more relevant to the individuality of a particular duck like age, size, temperament and personality as the relate to the flock dynamic.



Totally makes sense, I can see how this depends on the duck and the flock. I really haven't observed them enough to know more intricacies of the social dynamics in this flock but these factors are really helpful to keep in mind.

This sort of bullying-enforced tribalism still does bother me a lot, but y'all have helped me wrap my head around the whole thing a lot better.
Thank you so much!!
 
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I had this trouble when I first got muscovy ducks.  I got a mother and her dozen ducklings, 6 of whom were black and white the others where like their mum, pure white.  She showed obvious favouritism for the pure white ones and was not quite violent but definitely not friendly towards the coloured ducklings.  Racism in my ducks seemed to be a learned behaviour and was passed down the maternal line.  Four of her white ducks developed an extreme dislike of non-white ducks to the extent that they killed one of them (I witnessed the lynching but it was over before I could intervene) and tried to kill two others.  It was a very weird thing to see because they were not only the same species but also the same family. 

It took a lot of culling (mmm.. racist ducks taste delicious) but we finally have a flock that is colour blind.  We have white, light grey, dark grey, brown and black and white ducks all living together in harmony. 

 
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I've noticed this to a degree with my own ducks, as well. Ducks of similar colors do stick together, though I've never really seen much picking on of the other colored ducks--they just usually forage separately. I have mini-flocks within my big flock, so to speak.

Some of this, too, is dependent on who the ducks grew up with. It also seems to depend on how they like to spend their time. Some ducks are lazier, and will hang out with other ducks that like to sit in the grass. Some like to be in the water, and just stick with the ducks that like to be in the pond. Some a great foragers, and just follow around whoever is foraging. In my flock of 14, I have a lot of different colored/breeds of ducks:

  • 3 Golden 300s: These grew up together and forage together. Sometimes they forage with my lilac runner duck (also brown) or with our Anconas
  • 2 Anconas (one black and white, one grey/"blue" and white): These two stick together. They've also been in our flock the longest. They sometimes forage together with the Golden 300s/runner duck, and sometimes wander off by themselves. But, they are almost always together.
  • 1 White Layer. She's solid white, and came to us by herself. She usually follows the anconas and Golden 300s around, but they don't seem to really include or exclude her. When we first got her, all the other ducks hated her. She was a loud, whiny duck and they'd run off and forage without her, or peck at her if she tried to forage with them. That lasted a week or two, and now there's no more picking on her, and she just kind of follows other ducks around like a little sister trailing after her brother who doesn't really want her around.
  • 1 lilac runner duck: She's a brownish grey. She came with four other Runner Ducks that passed away. She used to always forage with them, and then teamed up with the Golden 300s when the other runner ducks passed. She generally hangs out with the Golden 300s or Anconas, or whoever is a good forager
  • 5 magpie/blue Swedish/Cayuga siblings: Two are grey and white, and three are black and white. They don't pick on each other based on color and they were all raised together. I sometimes call these ducks the "mafia" or the "mob" because they all travel together and love to mob my cats when the cats are  eating their cat food, and then steal the cat's food. Sometimes they join the rest of the flock, but generally they go off by themselves.


  • Generally, when a new duck enters the flock, the seek out other ducks that look the most like themselves or like the ducks they are used to. But, if their friends pass away, they then prefer ducks that they've known the longest. They aren't as "bonded" to those ducks, but they don't want to be alone, so they flock together. I had one Golden 300 who had all her siblings pass away, and then she hung out with the runner duck and the anconas. But, when more Golden 300s were added to the flock, she then went and joined them and flocked less with the anconas, even though she'd known the anconas better.
     
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