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Lurking danger, ample protection for DC Duck
|Those who know her say it’s obvious. Lucille the duck cannot do this alone.
Lucille moved in on 17th Street in downtown Washington in early June. Her nest, with 10 eggs in it now, is in a small planter box sandwiched between the busy street and the bustling sidewalk.
Her neighbors could see she needed help.
“Maybe she [is] a young duck and didn’t realize this was not a good place,” said Nina Mall, who works on the ninth floor of the Barr Building nearby.
So they’ve decided: It takes a building to mother a mallard. Employees bring her water and food. The concierge makes sure she doesn’t get run over crossing the street. The print shop on the first floor has been deputized to scoop up her ducklings when they hatch.
“A lot of people love that duck,” said Shawn Amirjazil, who works in the print shop.
And that might be her biggest problem.
Lucille is a wild mallard, one of several species around the city. Neighbors say her mate lives across the street from her spot between I and K streets, in Farragut Square.
Scotlund Haisley, of D.C. Animal Control, said ducks often nest downtown this time of year, seeing it as an environment free of predators and other territorial ducks. Many times, Haisley said, these mothers and their hatchlings are injured by cars and other hazards of urban life.
When Lucille was first spotted by smokers lingering outside the building, there were three eggs. Now, the count is up to 10, neighbors say.
But the nest isn’t in the most placid spot. Cars and trucks idle at the curb, and people and dogs are always walking by. Lucille herself sometimes draws a crowd of admirers – many unaware or forgetting that they are supposed to stay many feet away, so as not to spook her.
At first, the duck’s protectors wanted to get her out of there, but the law wouldn’t allow it. Mallards are federally protected as migratory birds, and their nests can’t be moved or harassed.
Still, Lucille’s fans in the Barr Building want to give nature a little help. She has a bowl of water and several slices of bread, plus duck kibble the guys in the Ace Press shop got from D.C. Animal Control.
Bob Johnson, from the print shop, gives her popcorn, but no one’s sure whether his motives are pure. He jokes – a little too often – about catching Lucille and turning her into Peking duck.
“She eats my popcorn,” Johnson said. “I got her nice and fat.”
Animal control authorities say the duck shouldn’t be fed anything other than duck chow.
Barr Building employees are trying to help Lucille in other ways. Concierge William Sanders said that one morning he saw Lucille start waddling across 17th Street in the middle of traffic. He ran out the door and stopped traffic, a la the book “Make Way for Ducklings.”
“We just stopped the cars and let them know that there was a duck,” Sanders said.
And, of course, everyone is concerned that the ducklings’ first steps after hatching might be off the curb.
In the print shop, Arash Riazi has a cardboard “duck box” that D.C. Animal Control gave him for the ducklings. He and his companions have been instructed that they should first catch the mother (they call her “the duck”; only Mall and others upstairs call her Lucille) and put her in the box. Then, Riazi and his companions are told, the ducklings will follow their mother into the box.
“I’ve never tried catching a duck,” Amirjazil said. “I know it’s going to take teamwork.”
Mall and her friend Sharon Thomas were unaware of Riazi’s plan. If they’re around when the ducklings hatch, “we will physically collect the babies,” they said. Somehow.
“I’m just worried that people are … going to start going crazy” when the eggs hatch, Amirjazil said.
Lucille doesn’t seem too concerned, neighbors say. She makes regular afternoon trips across the street to see her mate. She always returns to a full water bowl and a mound of dry duck chow.
“She’s loving all of it,” Sanders said.
The Washington Post
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