See smaller The Muscovy ducks — When I moved to Naples seven months ago, I spent an hour or so poking around the beach at Lowdermilk Park. What struck me most was the reactions that an enormous wandering duck provoked when he waddled up to the umbrella-shaded beach-goers looking for handouts. An reader engrossed in a James Patterson reader absent-mindedly shooed it away with her book. A little boy tried to trick the duck into eating small seashells. And an elderly couple in beach chairs flailed their arms, threw sand and assaulted the party-crasher with a barrage of profanity. In each case, the duck calmly moved on. That bird is part of tribe of feathered outcasts called Muscovy ducks, the sexually promiscuous feral cousins to a pre-conquistador domesticated species of ducks from Central and South America that has mysteriously populated a handful of places in the United States. They are the only species of ducks that has no pair bonds, or lasting relationships, between mates. And they are an invasive species, said Dr. William Searcy, professor of ornithology at the University of Miami. Searcy says Muscovy ducks crowd out native wildlife, are dirty (creating up to one-third of a pound of fecal matter per bird per day) and engage in forced copulation. 'We're not allowed to say 'rape' in ornithology,' Searcy said. But other than being rapists, which is also fairly prevalent in the rest of the animal world, I didn't see anything too outlandish about the ducks that humans weren't guilty of as well. We beg for food. We crowd out native species. We create excessive fecal matter. On a molecular level, the similarities are even more pronounced. Dr. Jeffrey Marcus, assistant professor in the biology department at Western Kentucky University, pointed out that the cellular biochemistry of both Muscovy ducks and people is almost identical. For instance, in looking at a random strand of duck mitochondria, which controls the conversion of food we eat into energy that the body can use, Marcus found that the genetic sequence of ducks is roughly 77 percent the same as humans. 'In the grand scheme of things, we're ducks without features, wings or beaks,' Marcus said. In returning to that first day at Lowdermilk Park, I guess I saw a reflection of myself in that socially inept duck. And DNA analysis aside, maybe we all have a little Muscovy in us — awkwardly wandering around the earth, invading people's person space in search of fulfillment and looking for that one person who will accept us — and not swat us away with their James Patterson novel. Published September 18, 2006

Photo by TRISTAN SPINSKI, Daily News

The Muscovy ducks — When I moved to Naples seven months ago, I spent an hour or so poking around the beach at Lowdermilk Park. What struck me most was the reactions that an enormous wandering duck provoked when he waddled up to the umbrella-shaded beach-goers looking for handouts. An reader engrossed in a James Patterson reader absent-mindedly shooed it away with her book. A little boy tried to trick the duck into eating small seashells. And an elderly couple in beach chairs flailed their arms, threw sand and assaulted the party-crasher with a barrage of profanity. In each case, the duck calmly moved on. That bird is part of tribe of feathered outcasts called Muscovy ducks, the sexually promiscuous feral cousins to a pre-conquistador domesticated species of ducks from Central and South America that has mysteriously populated a handful of places in the United States. They are the only species of ducks that has no pair bonds, or lasting relationships, between mates. And they are an invasive species, said Dr. William Searcy, professor of ornithology at the University of Miami. Searcy says Muscovy ducks crowd out native wildlife, are dirty (creating up to one-third of a pound of fecal matter per bird per day) and engage in forced copulation. "We're not allowed to say 'rape' in ornithology," Searcy said. But other than being rapists, which is also fairly prevalent in the rest of the animal world, I didn't see anything too outlandish about the ducks that humans weren't guilty of as well. We beg for food. We crowd out native species. We create excessive fecal matter. On a molecular level, the similarities are even more pronounced. Dr. Jeffrey Marcus, assistant professor in the biology department at Western Kentucky University, pointed out that the cellular biochemistry of both Muscovy ducks and people is almost identical. For instance, in looking at a random strand of duck mitochondria, which controls the conversion of food we eat into energy that the body can use, Marcus found that the genetic sequence of ducks is roughly 77 percent the same as humans. "In the grand scheme of things, we're ducks without features, wings or beaks," Marcus said. In returning to that first day at Lowdermilk Park, I guess I saw a reflection of myself in that socially inept duck. And DNA analysis aside, maybe we all have a little Muscovy in us — awkwardly wandering around the earth, invading people's person space in search of fulfillment and looking for that one person who will accept us — and not swat us away with their James Patterson novel. Published September 18, 2006

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