PEOPLE may still be fleeing the city for the suburbs, but...

Salmagundi

July 27, 1992

PEOPLE may still be fleeing the city for the suburbs, but there is evidence of another sort of population explosion in Baltimore. A frequent visitor to the Inner Harbor has noticed an influx of mallard ducks there in recent years. What appeared to be perhaps a dozen or so last year now look like a substantial flock. One morning last week the visitor counted 41 mallards, including some downy ducklings, gathered around the dock in front of the Maryland Science Center.

Is the Inner Harbor getting to be a wildlife refuge? Certainly the improving water quality has brought back aquatic life. An occasional fish can be seen jumping at dusk. Gulls feasting on crabs attest to their presence. But ducks?

Waterfowl experts have various theories to explain the profusion of ducks in the harbor. One is that their forebears migrated from the Washington area, where they abound, to Baltimore via the suburban lakes created in intervening places like Columbia during the past couple of decades. This theory is reinforced by their appearance some 20 years ago in Druid Hill Park, where they now abound in the hundreds.

Another theory holds that mallards, usually shy of people, have always lived in the Baltimore area. Some of the more adventurous scouted the Inner Harbor and found they, like the gulls, could dine well off the habitues of Harborplace. Succeeding generations are getting less fearful of people. While less brazen than the gulls, which are capable of snatching food from a donor's fingers, the ducks are getting domesticated in larger numbers.

In any event, bird-watching could become an urban hobby. A bird lover who lives in Northeast Baltimore reports herons and red-winged blackbirds around Lake Montebello, far from their natural habitats.

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