I think we have a pair of homing ducks.
Each spring this Mallard duck couple is the first to arrive back on our pond and stay for the summer. We believe they are the same pair that has been coming back for twelve years now.
When Papa Pea was teaching, every spring in his third grade classroom he would hatch out a batch of Mallard duck eggs and a batch of chicken eggs. Children who had their parents' permission could take home two chicks or two ducklings at the end of the school year.
One year a boy chose to take home two of the Mallard ducks. The first part of that summer we were invited to his family's home and G proudly showed us his ducks in their fenced in enclosure which included a child's wading pool for the ducks to swim in.
Later that summer, we got a call from G's mother. She said the family was going on a three-week vacation and G was worried about who would take care of his ducks. The mother asked if they could bring the two ducks to our pond so we could duck-sit them while the family was gone. She said they would pick G's ducks up as soon as they got home.
We agreed to take care of the ducks but our only fear was that being wild Mallard ducks, they might possibly take off and fly away. Fortunately, the ducks apparently didn't know they were wild Mallard ducks and COULD fly away. They stayed on the pond happily paddling around and eating the grain we tossed to them morning and night for three weeks.
Then one day we got a call from G's Mother saying the family had decided that the ducks had a much better life on our pond than in the small enclosure at their house so would we like to keep them. We agreed to this so the pair stayed with us until the pond started to freeze that fall. One day the Mallards were gone and we didn't expect to see them again. We only hoped that they had enough inborn instinct to know where to go for the winter.
That winter passed and early the next spring, a pair of Mallards showed up on the pond. When Papa Pea went out to open up the chicken house and throw scratch out on the ground that first morning, the two ducks came waddling up from the pond just like they knew the routine. They acted very tame and weren't the least bit skittish about coming right up to our feet. We became convinced they were G's ducks.
Even though they would be twelve years old now, I've read that Mallards can live in the wild for up to fifteen years so I'm still convinced these two are our homing ducks who return each year for the summer. If they can manage to avoid becoming a meal for a duck hunter somewhere during their travels, who knows how many more years they'll keep coming back.