New Duck House Built For Appalachian’s Campus Flock (2018-12-07 16:00:44)

Campus ducks have new digs at the Appalachian State University Duck Pond. A 64-square-foot floating shelter was installed Monday to provide the ducks a safe nesting area and refuge from stormy weather.

The duck pond, located near the corner of Rivers Street and Stadium Drive, has been a landmark on campus since it was installed in 1927, according to the Appalachian historical timeline. For decades, students and visitors have enjoyed watching and feeding the ducks.

Each year, particularly when the weather turns cold and snowy, the Office of the Chancellor receives emails and calls with inquiries about the welfare of the ducks. Some express concern over the safety of the birds in cold weather. Others ask if the ducks’ wings have been clipped so they’ll stay on campus, preventing migration that might naturally occur when the pond freezes over.

Dr. Lynn Siefferman, an ornithologist and associate professor in Appalachian’s Department of Biology, said the campus ducks are mallards, domestic Muscovy ducks and hybrids — all breeds that can withstand very cold temperatures. The ducks have very thick down under their top feathers, making the birds well suited for Boone’s winter climate.

“The ducks’ wings are not clipped, and the birds are free to fly or migrate as they wish,” Siefferman said. “Although mallards often migrate, many mallards overwinter in the southeastern state.”

Siefferman explained much of the campus duck population is probably feral domestic stock, so they do not migrate in the traditional sense. Also, some of the mallards might be visitors — those that breed farther north and spend the winter in Boone.

The mallard is omnivorous and very flexible in its choice of food, so Siefferman said feeding them is neither necessary nor harmful.

In response to concerns expressed by well-meaning bird lovers, Siefferman consulted with other ornithologists about the construction of a shelter for the ducks. It was agreed that while the ducks don’t need a house, it would not be a detriment to their natural way of life to have one.

Wayne Hicks, carpentry supervisor for Appalachian’s Physical Plant, was commissioned to design and build the duck shelter.

“I looked on the internet to come up with a design that would work best for us,” he said. “The house floats to keep the ducks safe from predators — mainly dogs that are loose and raccoons.”

The duck house is constructed of pressure treated wood and painted metal and is “as maintenance free as it can be,” Hicks said.

Article written by Jan Todd, courtesy of Appalachian State University

Photo by Marie Freeman