Leighton Buzzard punters have had a quacking surprise in town, as two ducks have taken to sitting in the high street.
The male mallard and his lady were relaxing outside The Black Lion and the Kayra Mediterranean Restaurant and Meze Bar last week, and the birds’ mystery presence hasn’t gone unnoticed!
Nikki Brodin, landlady at the Black Lion, said: “They have been coming for about a week or so and we have got two of them - a boy and a girl.
“They sometimes sit by our fire exit or the restaurant’s front door.
“A lot of people have been taking photos of them. No-one bothers them and they’ve often got some bread. I’ve not seen a nest.
“They come and go - for a couple of days they weren’t there. We think they have come from the canal.”
Some locals have suggested that the ducks may be there because it is mating season. Allegedly, males can get quite boisterous and drown a female, so “once a female finds her partner they like to go off together”.
However, other residents are worried about the safety of the feathery pair.
Avis Fowler, said: “It looks like they’ve made a nest, most of it is full of breadcrumbs or sawdust. I’m concerned it’s dangerous, it’s not the best place to be.
“I was there on Thursday about 7pm and the female was sitting there, but I don’t know if there are any eggs underneath her as I didn’t get too close.
“It was causing quite a lot of interest in Costa as people were remarking on it.
On the Sunday a pair of them were there too, walking across the bus turning area. They didn’t seem too bothered where they were. It was unbelievable and it was lucky there wasn’t a lot going on in the area.”
However, since spotting the ducks and the mysterious nest on Sunday, Avis said that the ducks weren’t there on Friday and there have not been sightings over the weekend.
To try and get to the bottom of the High Street duck mystery, the LBO spoke to Julian Clare, manager at Wriggles Exotic Pets shop, Leighton Buzzard, who has experience in rescue, rehabilitation and release work with both mammals and reptiles.
Julian said: “The reason the ducks were in town is probably for food. They are close enough to water but it may well be that they want a regular food source.
“It’s also a possibility that they’ve come into town because they were an inexperienced or very young pair of ducks still going through the motions [during mating season]. It could be a contribution of factors, such as proximity to water, perceived threats. Many many birds in the first two or three seasons get things wrong.
“Some pairs of ducks mate twice over the course of the season because of the warm spring and then a sudden cold snap [which seems like winter again].
“Breeding season starts as early as March and last until, August/ early September. It varies with species of duck.
“Ducks at this time of year can be quite defensive in terms of territory or defensive of other ducks. Generally, once the eggs have hatched the female tends to be more protective over ducklings.
“I also don’t doubt that it [a female duck drowning] has happened in the past, as drakes will become very very enthusiastic during the breeding season.
“Ducks are not really a threat to people; I’ve never heard of a duck causing injury to a pet or passer-by.
“However, I don’t think the pair will have been nesting in the area; they are normally much closer to water.
“It’s very very rare to get a duck off its territory - they are very very stubborn animals. The ‘nest’ described was probably food or debris.”
Julian advises that if you wish to feed ducks, it is best to buy special duck mash (which is seed based) or duck kibble (meaning granulated animal feed).