I have learned something about mallard ducks.
I knew little about these birds that I see a lot. Parks, ponds, puddles. Where there is water, there will likely be mallards. So, I decided to find out more.
Mallards are “the Northern Hemisphere’s most abundant and cosmopolitan duck,” according to the Audubon Society. A flight or a flock of them is called a sord. And in 2005, true to her cosmopolitan nature, a mallard was protected by Secret Service as she gave birth to an 11-duckling sord at the entrance to the US Treasury.
I read all this. It’s interesting. But the amazing thing about mallards? I didn’t read it. I saw it from a park bench. Where I sat on a gray and glum day feeling gray and glum with doubt.
In the pond across from me, a sord of mallards swam without effort through the water. I was close to the pond. Close enough to see under the water. And under the water, their orangey-red webbed feet were paddling, paddling, paddling. Fiercely.
Then, as if they knew I’d seen their secret, the mallards took off into the gray air. Their wings pushed on the ascent, finally leveling off into a shallow flap. And between their flapping wings was their neck, fully extended. Because when mallards fly, they stick their necks out.
Maybe that’s the story doubt made me forget, I thought from my park bench. When it looks effortless, it’s probably because we aren’t close enough to see under the water. And we can’t take to the air if we don’t stick our necks out.
We have too much swimming and flying and living to do to let doubt keep us on land. It’s risky. There’s no Secret Service protection. But mallards – these abundant, cosmopolitan, common birds – do it all the time. So, why not?
It’s a perfect day for flying.