An ode to Scovies and other unloved animals

Neliza DrewApr 3·4 min read (originally published on Medium)

muscovy duck in the foreground. Another is in the background.
Muscovy Duck who is a lover of a good dance party

People can be obscenely cruel. Especially when it comes to Muscovy ducks. People in South Florida, in particular, think it’s okay to hit them with their cars, to intentionally let dogs attack them, to call exterminators to come and murder them, to scoop them up and eat them, or otherwise treat them as a nuisance, a pest, or disposable garbage.

I have no patience for those people.

I’ve lived with Muscovy ducks as pets for a few years now and they are frequently as loving and friendly as dogs or cats.

I have one that comes over every time he hears my voice, wanders up and down the hallway if you leave the back door open, will eat out of your hand, loves hugs from people and snuggles from other ducks, is protective of his foster mom/best friend, and is almost always willing to participate in a dance party by wagging his tail and hissing at you while you dance with him. His foster mom grew up in the office while I was teaching and still likes hanging out on my shoulder. Her first vet visit was before Covid so I could go in with her. She stood on my shoulder while I filled out paperwork, hung out up there while I walked us into the exam room and then stood on the exam table looking at the vet assistant and I, perfectly calm and compliant.

I like to post videos and photos of them to Twitter and Instagram in an effort to share their great personalities. I’m not the only one.

A friend recently sent a video of a happy Muscovy couple near her condo complex. They came over to stand next to her as she enjoyed the lake front, hung out while she talked to them, and wandered off. Yes, they were looking for food, but they are also very friendly and maybe a little too trusting.

We’re fostering a dwarf male for a local rescuer. He’s extremely cute with his tiny bill and he’s both a tad too frisky and pretty awkward what with his giant wings, tiny body, short legs, and stunted bill. I heard splashing yesterday from the office window and looked out to find him chasing his tail in the pond, using his oversized wings to spin him. He also uses his wings to get out of the pond in much the same way a person would use their arms to push up out of a pool. Little dude cracks me up.

A few mornings ago, the husband let the one cat out around daybreak. It’s the cat that prefers outside to a litterbox and will go do his thing and return pretty quickly. He spent the first few months of his life as an outside, semi-feral cat whose owner was an older woman who didn’t seem to spend much time with him. He clearly had other ideas because within five minutes of him being delivered, before a hurricane, by another neighbor to our front door, he was curled up in a bathrobe snoring. Anyway, the cat came back, paused, and stared at the husband because between them was an opossum bigger than the cat.

Another misunderstood animal I adore would be the opossum. So many people fear them, poison them, gleefully run over them, or just hate them from a distance. Here’s a secret to opossums: they’re far softer than they look like they’d be and they are smarter than their poor eyesight might make them seem. They also eat a ton of mosquitoes, which makes them heroes in my book.

Pigeons, doves, and Eastern starlings aren’t exactly popular either, but it’s enjoyable to observe them in the yard. They’re also smart enough to know the cats give the ducks a very wide berth so as long as they’re hanging with the ducks, they’re safe. Few things amuse me as much as one of the pink-legged doves that live in the loquat tree waddling up to the giant drakes and nodding their heads at them as though they know they’re all backyard friends.

I’ve been told ducks and other birds create “dangerous” waste that mars sidewalks and play areas, but after this past year of watching people refuse masks, who eat inside restaurants during a pandemic, and who pack themselves onto airplanes for fun, I no longer wish to hear hygiene arguments from most Americans. After working with kids before that who would eat things they found at the bottom of their backpack, who never washed their hands, and who would regularly gnaw on anything that fit in their mouths even at 10 or 11, I don’t think it’s the birds that are the problem.

As with a lot of things, it’s the people who are the problem. People refusing to learn, refusing to understand, refusing to acknowledge that other species have value, personality, and worth is common, but that doesn’t mean I have to accept it or support it.

All creatures deserve respect. Even the ones people think are ugly.