Billy, the duck; an example of complexity
Billy came to Eastern Shore a few years back. He came with a companion, his mate. She got sick, and pattrice had to carry her out of the bird yard to bring her to the vet. pattrice came back with empty arms, and Billy has never forgotten.
You’d almost want to say he hasn’t forgiven as well, if you met him, but it is hard to figure out. Billy doesn’t leave pattrice alone, and it has been a couple years since his mate died. Is it because he didn’t see her feathered body, stiff in death? Is it because he thinks that pestering pattrice will convince her to bring his mate back? Or is he focused on pattrice in a weird form of displaced affection?
We can’t know. They express their thoughts and feelings to the best of their ability, but they tend to slam right into the wall of human incomprehension. Billy loves having his chest rubbed, and pattrice makes it a point to give him those chest rubs often. He seems content with his feathered family when pattrice isn’t in sight. He happily does all the duck things you’d expect of a duck…right up until he sees pattrice again, and then he makes a beeline straight for her, making his odd duck noises and pecking at her feet and legs.
Would it make a difference if another female muscovy duck arrived? Would he bond with her, and finally be content even when pattrice is around?
We can’t know. All we can know is that Billy had a bond with his mate, and he still feels the loss, years later. They aren’t simple creatures, as Billy shows. Animals have complex ranges of emotion and communication, and our lack of comprehension should not mislead us into thinking of them as less than us.