Quack! There goes the neighborhood

What do you call a group of ducks? 

This is one of those rare questions you can’t simply turn over to Google. This question overwhelms Google. There seems to be no definitive single answer. On the contrary, multiple websites offer differing answers. BirdFact.com actually offers the equivalent of an honors course on the subject of duck-group names, with no fewer than 45 options. You can have a badling of ducks, or a brace of ducks. You can have a brood, a company, or a diving. A fleet, a flight, a flush. A knob of ducks, a lute, a plump. Duck groups have different names if you see them in the air or on the water or on the ground. Look, there’s a skein of ducks! A what? You know, a smeath — a sord — a suce of ducks. You mean a wobbling of ducks? Yes! Sheesh! Don’t you speak English?

These questions are critical in my neighborhood now, out here on Planet Outer Linebrook, in the western nether-regions of Ipswich, Massachusetts, because we’ve been invaded by a duck gang. I was surprised the first time I looked out my front windows and saw them waddling around on a neighbor’s grass. I was a city boy my entire life till I arrived in Ipswich, so I had limited exposure to ducks. I assumed they needed water, but the body of water closest to my house is a neighbor’s little pond about halfway between here at Cumby’s. The next-closest traditional duck habitat would be Hood Pond, a mile or so further west. But here they were. A dopping of ducks, brazenly strutting their stuff.

I shuddered, flashing back to the tough neighborhood I survived in Chicago. To me, this didn’t look like ordinary, innocent, awkward waddling by harmless poultry. This looked like stalking, the kind of quiet menace that street gangs brought to East 59th Street on the South Side of my childhood. It seemed to me that these could be murderous killer fowl, descending on outer Linebrook to have their way with us, threatening our lives and livelihoods, forcing us to pay protection. The Godfather, Part 4, but with birds.

They do look silly, on the surface — by which I mean, the surface of the earth. Ducks are designed to skim along the top of a liquid. Their dopey webbed feet are frantically cycling under the surface, but topside, they look calm and cool, almost regal. It’s all a cover-up. But on your front yard? They wobble, they move like windup toys, and not very good windup toys. They snuffle their silly rounded beaks into the grass, searching for bugs and other yummy grossities, and appear to meander aimlessly. But my Chicago experience taught me that this is not aimless meandering. This is “casing the joint.” They’re looking for control. They want to quietly coerce us, via fear and intimidation, to obey them.

The Linebrook Road ducks did all the bug-grubbing they could on my neighbor’s property, then they waddled over to mine. I stood safely behind my window, watching them extend their territory. They rooted around our forsythia, doing their best to look like regular everyday feathered friends, but I could read the evil in their hearts. “This is our home now,” they were saying. “We’ll waddle here all we want, and there’s nothing you can do to stop us. All the way from Hood Pond to your neighbor’s miserable little cesspool — it’s ours.”

The pressure is intense, and unrelentless. Every day now, I find this wedge of ducks marching past my windows, this puddling of ducks circling my house in their ominous, passive-aggressive single file.

And you know what happens next. If they don’t find the bugs they need, as they root around in your grass and unraked leaves, they start quacking you awake before sunup, refusing to let you rest until you throw bread out into the yard. Cave in to that demand, and you open the floodgates. One ultimatum after another. 

Until you have no choice but to call a butcher with a rifle.

Then, things get ugly.

Doug Brendel hides from daggles of dangerous ducks outdoors at DougBrendel.com.

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