This is a difficult and complicated story so I’m going to tell it a couple of different ways all of which end up in illness for the ducks, distress for us and quite possibly a larger statement about the sad and unresolved condition of the world’s backyards.
Bonnie has lead poisoning.
She’s just finished a second series of treatments that should help flush the toxin from her system. The first round started in September but progress has been fitful. On the plus side, she’s gaining much-needed winter weight and seems undeterred by all the veterinary pokes she’s enduring. We remain optimistic but have far more troubling questions than answers.
Puff had lead poisoning last winter.
We thought (hoped?) this might be an isolated incident. On x-ray, the vet found possible culprit particles in her abdomen. Birds—ducks as well as parakeets—have been known to ingest shiny objects, some of which could be tainted with this ubiquitous heavy metal. Ducks eat both on and from the ground. Who knows what resides in that ever-shifting foundation, carried down from history, sifted through mud and water, waiting for its moment at the surface?
There are many weird quirks to this terrible situation and, if you will, several blessings. Quirk #1: Puff got better and appears stronger than ever. (At least, for the moment.) Quirk #2: The eggs we’ve tested have indicated very low levels of lead. Quirk #3: A large part of the soil we’ve sampled has been within New York median range and most, much lower. But there could be a hot spot. Or several.
And at the top of the blessings category: two very kind and patient veterinarians who happen to be able to care for ducks and whose office is a brief drive away. Add to them another generous and skilled expert: an environmental scientist who’s been working with me for months to untangle the various strands of this unexpected and painful dilemma. I thank all three for past and future contributions to our still unfolding tale. The plan is to publish a more complete account when we have more answers.
One more thing. In August, Peep died unexpectedly. Did lead exposure play a role in her otherwise ordinary poultry illness?
I don’t know but you can be sure I’m still asking.
Copyright 2013, Lori Fontanes