Ducks: Nature’s Great Generalists

Walking around Olympia’s Capitol Lake, blissfully unaware that less than half-a-mile away police were launching canisters of tear gas at protesters, I found myself watching a file of ducks standing on a fallen tree. As I studied them, heads tucked slightly under their wings to shelter from the wind, it occurred to me what utterly odd animals they are.

They look like footballs with heads. Their only defense is their rounded little beaks. Their stubby legs are comically insufficient. In the air, they’re nowhere near as fast or agile as hawks, eagles, or owls. Their swimming is woefully sub-par compared to seals, otters, and, of course, fish.

Aberdeen, Washington: Not the Lying-Down Kind

Yet, somehow, some way, ducks are a fantastically successful species. They’re everywhere, and in large numbers. That’s when it occurred to me that ducks are nature’s great generalists. They aren’t great anywhere, but they’re pretty good everywhere.

Ducks can swim pretty good. They can fly pretty good. They can handle the land pretty good. The only thing they’re really great at is being ducks. This is their real super-power: they’re pretty good everywhere.

As a fan of generalization, and as a man who isn’t fond of the hyper-specialization that is favored in modern society, my respect for the duck elevated tremendously as I realized the true wonder of their success.

Mallard duck swimming in water.

If you were to line up every animal species in the world and show them to a blind panel of judges who had never encountered Earth life before, no one would pick the duck to thrive the way it has.

The only reason we don’t realize how ridiculous ducks look is because they’re so dang successful that they are ubiquitous. We’ve been seeing them consistently since we were kids. They’re just part of the background noise at this point.

But, seriously, look at them…really sit down and look at them. They’re absurd, like one of creation’s inside jokes.

That’s part of the reason they’re so lovable, I believe, and why they amuse us so much when we take the time to observe them. They’re strange accidents of the animal world. They’re also wildly successful despite their supposed absurdity.

I texted this observation to my brother, who got a laugh out of it. So, I figured maybe it’d be an entertaining thought to share with you all, as well. That’s all.

Keep Northwesting, friends.

Hidden Treasures of Tumwater Historical Park

2 thoughts on “Ducks: Nature’s Great Generalists”

  1. When I imagine -being- a duck, I imagine they must feel totally boss. They’re totally unsinkable. Powerful webbed feet just waiting to propel them underwater or up into the air. Eat whatever they want. Graceful curving neck gives them a commanding view of the water, like the bridge of an aircraft carrier. If we could hear their inner monologue, they would be saying it feels good to be a gangsta.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.