She may not be as flashy as her male counterparts with their glossy green heads, yet Nelly doesn’t seem to care. Her brown and tan plumage is artfully arranged in a pattern that suits her. She’s built a little thick in the middle, but that’s just her natural shape.
Nelly is a calm gal. It didn’t ruffle her feathers one bit when a visitor stepped closer to get acquainted with her.
“She’s used to people,” explained Jeff Prieur. He’s been looking after Nelly the female mallard for the past few months at her home in Lake Havasu City’s Bridgewater Channel.
“Looking after” isn’t quite accurate, considering that Nelly appears to have adopted Prieur. But he makes sure she has a safe place to rest 24 hours a day.
“She just showed up one day in May and has been here ever since,” Prieur said. He owns Champion Rentals, which is situated on docks a stone’s throw from the London Bridge. His boat fleet includes pontoons, personal water craft and a 16-foot runabout.
Nelly chose the runabout for her home and prefers to roost on the floor by the captain’s chair.
“We keep a towel there for her. It’s where she sits most of the time,” Prieur said, noting that Nelly never soils her towel. She gets in the water to take care of business, to bathe and find food.
“We don’t feed her,” Prieur said.
Nelly may go on dates, but she doesn’t bring her boyfriends home. Still, she does have frequent visitors.
“There are three other mallards who are here every morning to greet me. They’ve been doing this for five or six years,” Prieur said.
While the small flock is his welcoming party when he arrives at his dockside office, the trio eventually takes off for parts unknown, returning intermittently for the rest of the day. The ducks also enjoy playing in sprinklers that line Champion Rentals’ docks. While the water system is meant to keep customers’ feet cool while walking on the sun-baked docks, the water is also appreciated by feet of the webbed variety.
Prieur takes all this duck love in stride and is amused by the mallards’ personalities and willingness to socialize. He enjoys interacting with them, but still, he’s got a business to run and customers to serve. There are times when the ducks must accommodate spurts of human activity.
“When we rent out Sweet Pea – that’s Nelly’s boat – we have to move Nelly to the dock. We keep a little pet bed there for her and she seems okay with it,” he said. Nelly allows Prieur or his crew to carry her to the dock without so much as a quack.
“We tell customers we have to get the duck off the boat before they can use it, but they do have the option of taking the duck with them,” he said. “The kids get such a kick out of it.”
While there haven’t been any takers to let Nelly ride along as a passenger, such an event did occur inadvertently with another mallard hen.
“We had a boat with all the life jackets stored in the bow. A mother duck had 14 eggs in the nose of the boat. But we didn’t know any of this until the customer who rented the boat returned to the dock. While they were out on the lake, the duck came out, wings flapping. Our customers freaked out and I don’t blame them,” Prieur said.
Pam Ashley can be reached at 928-453-4237, ext. 230 or email@example.com.