This letter is written in response to the Morning Star article Nov. 30 about an influx of dead ducks on Kalamalka Lake and inconclusive speculation that deaths may be a direct result of fungus-laden seed consumption.
The dead ducks are mallards and indeed there are a lot of them to be found around the north end of Kalamalka Lake, even piling up in some areas (e.g. at the Vernon Creek outtake).
However, to see dead ducks is not unusual at this time of year and in a majority of instances, the carcasses themselves are found totally devoid of anything edible.
Bones, feathers and sometimes the bird’s neck are all that remains.
If one spends time watching birds on the lake, you will see raptors consuming (and if you’re lucky capturing) the hapless mallards, often tearing them apart at the same location (e.g. near the Vernon Creek outtake).
It turns out the overly buoyant “dabblers” are generally slow to take off from the water and evading effective predators (e.g. bald eagles) is difficult for mallards.
It may be that fungus-seed-fed-ducks have a case of indigestion, which further impacts their ability to take off and fly faster than their cohorts, but it is notable that there are three times as many bald eagles in the area this year compared to last year (two adults plus four juveniles vs. two adults, respectively) and they all appear to enjoy duck.
Biologist and resident caretaker
Bishop Wild Bird Sanctuary