KINGSTON — It’s a foggy morning in Kingston. The sun is attempting to break through the clouds on what looks like a clear, cold day. And the dew-covered lawn at Mike Wallace Park is perfect for waddling on in search of breakfast.
That was Quackers’ morning on Jan. 19. The Muscovy duck is a common sight, and has become a celebrity, at the Port of Kingston.
“Frankly, I think he’s the most popular attraction right now,” Port Manager David Malone said.
Quackers arrived at the port in September or October.
Despite his celebrity status — a fan set up a Facebook page — Quackers is approachable.
“From my understanding, [Muscovy ducks] are a more social duck,” Malone said. However, Quackers does not like to be touched. “If you reach out, he seems to move to another area.”
However, stand in the Mike Wallace Park lawn and Quackers may very well walk within arm’s length. The duck may even take a short stroll with visitors.
“I’m not sure if he’s truly domesticated,” Malone said. “I would assume he didn’t just fly here from somewhere else.”
Quackers is said to be friendly with port staff, who named him. It was port staff that first greeted the duck, who has black and white feathers and a red face, and Quackers visits the port office sometimes for a drink of fresh water that’s left out for him.
Port staff employee Austin Goff was the first to befriend Quackers, Malone said. Goff is known to have a soft spot for animals — he helped a seagull after finding it with an injured wing. Goff set up the Facebook page for Quackers — Facebook.com/POKQuackers. Photos show Quackers on the port office’s second-floor porch and following a port employee to his car.
The duck is known to visit boaters as well, which is proven by photos of Quackers — posted Oct. 25 — aboard a port tenant’s boat while the boat owner made repairs.
The name “Quackers” is ironic, because Muscovy ducks, while not completely silent, typically don’t quack.
Muscovy ducks are not native to Washington. Except for indigenous populations in Florida and the lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, the ducks are considered escapees, according to Gene Bullock, a member of the Kitsap Audubon board of directors. In most places in the United States, the ducks are considered invasive and “a problem,” according to Bullock.
Quackers most likely escaped from a breeder, Bullock said. Occasionally, exotic birds escape from private property and establish breeding populations, Bullock said. However, the Muscovy duck has not established a population in the Northwest, he said.
One issue with a non-native species establishing itself is it can drive away native species, Bullock said. Take the mute swan, for example; the swan is known to find lagoons and wildlife refuges and become aggressive toward native species, he said.
“They’re a threat to birds that should be nesting there,” Bullock said.
Quackers, however, spends the day at the port with seagulls. In the evening, Malone said Quackers is seen flying west — most likely heading back to a quiet place to roost for the night, Bullock said. That could be a pond or lagoon where the duck feels safe from predators and the weather.
“Not sure where he roosts,” Malone said. “He seems to fly deeper into Kingston.”
Mallards, for example, spend time in fenced-in retention ponds because they have what they need and feel safe from animals such as dogs and coyotes. A more extreme example are birds that spend time on the meridian strips of highways, using high-volumes of traffic as a form of protection.
Where Quackers is from remains a mystery. However, fans say this transplant adds one more personality to the Kingston community.
Port staff aren’t sure whether Quackers is male or female. Staff believe Quackers might be male, because — wait for it — he has “gullfriends.”