Before reading this, I must caution those who are duck sympathizers or apologists. This article may offend you. I have no sympathy for the muscovy. Especially when they begin attacking innocent humans. Yes, the case could be made that no humans are innocent, however, in this particular case, I don’t care.
It began more than a month ago. The large waddling creature I took for a regular duck, a bit on the homely side, appeared more aggressive than the others. He waddled up the hill along Sager Creek at the south side of the library as if he thought I had bread crumbs or crackers.
Nevermind it was 7 A.M. and I was on my way to work. The duck probably just wanted to be fed, I thought. Though there was something a bit more to his movements. A jerky belligerence, as if he were proving a thing. I quickened my step making it past him and to the other side of the road. I looked back and saw he had stopped at the curb, still watching.
The second time was approximately two weeks ago. The duck was in the yard of the Masonic temple that sat above Sager Creek, south of the library.
Walking to work again, I saw him as I stepped from the gravel walkway and into the road bordering the asphalt path that runs along the creek. This is part of the Dogwood Trail. A public access trail for bicycling and pedestrian traffic. It runs twenty-something miles around Siloam Springs and is used frequently. Siloam Springs could be said to be one of the walkable friendly zones in the United States. The trails border creeks, run through parks, through eye-popping landscapes and provide a challenge to even the most athletic of us. This part of the trail begins a run north-south along Sager Creek, through Bob Henry Park.
I noticed him because he made a show of it. Ducks don’t usually appear to run at a person, but this one was quite showy. Head up, neck stretched out, legs carrying him quickly across the lawn of the Masonic lodge, appearing more to swagger than waddle. I stopped in the middle of the road. There was no traffic this early in the morning so I wasn’t worried, but I did wonder what this crazy duck was up to.
Did he think I had food? What was he doing?
When he was within a couple yards of me, I feigned left, he turned and I ran to the right attempting to avoid him. He quickly corrected and stuck his neck out even further, hissing while I jumped and ran past him. Though he didn’t pursue, I thought it odd he would go to those lengths–actually run across the lawn to confront me.
Did he think I was invading his territory?
While considering, I came to the realization that this could not be true. The average daily traffic along the trail is dense. This part of the trail is traveled by children walking to and from school daily. Adults bicycling, local athletes.
The last attack occurred two days ago (4/18).
As I stepped on to the path behind the Mason lodge and noticed him heading in my direction. He had begun to run and I estimated the distance between the path and his direction to it. I thought I could sprint past him without effort.
Another muscovy nearby raised its head and began flapping his wings.
I ran down the path and almost immediately the duck heading in my direction changed his course. Instead of heading straight for me across the grass, he headed for the asphalt.
“No!” I thought. How could he know to head me off?
Fear took hold. I could hear his brief exhalations. Hissing. His body was not just wagging from side to side, it was tipping with the extra effort he put into the run.
A sound of frustration escaped me as I poured on extra effort. I moved past him, barely. He still came and did not stop until I was on the other side of the street. Then he stopped and watched me for several moments.
Shaking, I stood and watched him across the expanse of asphalt until he turned and waddled back to his friends, who swayed their heads from side to side, making strange noises akin to acknowledgement (Right on Brother! You got that human on the run!)
That night after work I told my daughter about the experience. She suggested I do a google search. “Can ducks get rabies?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” I grumbled.
I googled ‘Aggressive ducks’, then ‘duck attack’ and came up with several photos of my attacker, or what looked very close to him. The muscovy duck.
This duck is not like other ducks. It is not related to the mallard, but evolved from a different branch. It sports large webbed talons, grows to about fifteen pounds and is incredibly intelligent compared to other birds. Unfortunately, on occasion it also becomes aggressive.
There was one report about a muscovy attacking a ninety-one year old man in the park with his grandson. A woman reported a muscovy flying upon her head and pecking at her face, tearing at her sweater.
That night Tania and I walked to the creek trying to find where the duck and his cronies were laying up. One of the articles said that muscovies sleep near water, though they are not really water fowl.
We found six of them laying along the edge of the creek. He stood on a large rock watching without making any aggressive move toward us.
The next day after work Tania and I found him behind the Masonic temple again. The video below shows a little, but we’re going to work at improving the quality of documenting this bird’s strange behavior.
Tania was laughing in the video, because we were actually prepared for this. I brought pepper spray (just in case) and she stayed far enough away to avoid him.
Anyway, we have picked out a name for him and future videos will dub him Danger Duck or D.D.