Social Question

Yellowdog's avatar

Are ducks capable of feeling gratitude?

Asked by Yellowdog (8023points) 1 week ago

Well, I know they are capable of sorrow and grief when it comes to its mate or offspring.

About a week ago, while I was walking (I have recently re-developed bursitis in my ankles after a mild injury)—I saw a duck or goose in obvious distress. Sorrow sounds the same among all species as a universal distress call.

During some recent, torrential rains about six ducklings had gone down into the storm sewer. I was not able to remove the grate, but called my brother in law, and by the time we were trying to remove the grate, the police showed. And we were able to remove the grate.

I was the only one willing to go down into the infestation of cockroaches. But I got the six ducklings out. It was risky because I do not have good footing, and am terribly afraid of spiders, snakes, and slipping.

Once the six ducklings were out, the mother just walked away with the ducklings in tow. I’m sure that was all she cared about, or needed to. But I wonder if ducks and geese are able to appreciate the help received from another species.

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33 Answers

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Well birds are pretty smart.so I give it a resounding maybe.

kritiper's avatar

No. Momma duck had her babies together so her journey to where ever she was going continued. She forgot about you and all the help and soon as she turned around and headed in the opposite direction.

flutherother's avatar

Maybe not, but I am sure they are capable of feeling happiness or misery.

Patty_Melt's avatar

I helped a duck and her new hatchlings once. It was about fifteen years ago. I didn’t go into someplace yucky, but I did go through a battle which could have been risky. When momma and hatchlings were reunited they all tore through the grass to water. I don’t believe ducks are burdened with feelings of sentiment. I think she was relieved and the babies were terrified. At most she was glad she had her babies. People in traffic were probably wondering how in the world I got a duck and one baby to follow me across the busy street. They did not see me gather the other seven and load them into my backpack. She would have followed me anywhere so long as she could hear them.
Once across the street, she apparently understood what was going on. She went to a hole under a fence and headed for water, loud quacks all the way. I unloaded her family fast as I could without harm. They followed the sound of her voice.
She apparently understood the chicks were going to be coming along, because she went from staying right at my heels during the danger, to passing me after we crossed several lanes of traffic even though I still had her chicks.
There was no looking back or waiting around. She realized her babies were getting help and that was it.
Now, in regards to you, I appreciate what you did. She didn’t, and won’t, but people will on her behalf.

stanleybmanly's avatar

This is a question for coloma. May her legend endure.

LostInParadise's avatar

No. Ducks are not able to perceive that you have a mind and are acting out of sympathy. For another example, I once saw a television show where an elephant was trying to help a baby rhino that was trapped in mud, but the mother rhino kept chasing it away, .without helping the baby.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Damn if I didn’t wake up with this on my mind! I don’t think they can, simply because they are unable to understand the sacrifice you made for them. They can’t put themselves in your shoes.

stanleybmanly's avatar

I tend to agree with Dutch, though there are clear examples of animals exhibiting traits of empathy, “thank you” or appreciation assumes levels of “reasoning” I would not expect a duck ordinarily capable of summoning. The concept of gratitude is after all rather abstract.

kritiper's avatar

If ducks and other animals had the wherewithal to be able to feel gratitude, they would also have the wherewithal to say “thank you.”

Yellowdog's avatar

If Minah Birds can say it, ducks probably have the physical capacity at least.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Sure you can teach a duck to mimic gratitude.

LostInParadise's avatar

@Yellowdog You do realize that mynah birds don’t understand what they are saying. There is the interesting case of Alex the parrot, but I don’t think that ducks are anywhere near as intelligent as parrots, and it is not clear from the article whether or not Alex could express gratitude.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Koko the gorilla knew what she was saying. And she definitely expressed gratitude.

Yellowdog's avatar

Birds CAN associate words with what they want. But thats just training, not just comprehension.

Koko was a sweetheart, Asked for things, but never asked questions. She comprehended words with concepts and ideas, but not fully enough to ask about things/questions..

raum's avatar

I thought Koko asked about death?

EDIT: I stand corrected. She was asked questions about death and she understood.

Yellowdog's avatar

Really a fascinating study that I’ve wanted to look more at and never have.

Even if one doesn’t like chimps and monkeys, this is an opportunity to really COMMUNICATE with another species that’s brain is similar but very different than ours. An animal’s mind is a fascinating thing especially as it coexists among humans.

raum's avatar

Have you read about Washoe ?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Very cool. Yes I’d heard of her but forgot the details. They’re even smarter than gorillas. But they’ll eat your face off if you cross them.

RocketGuy's avatar

I once helped a bunch of ducklings get out of a Jacuzzi. The mama had been running around the Jacuzzi, worried about her ducklings. The water was low, so they were too small to jump out. I put in a life ring and they jumped onto it, then jumped up to the edge and ran into the bushes. The mama duck walked up to me, quacked 4 times then ran into the bushes. Seemed like gratitude to me.

Yellowdog's avatar

Wonderful story, @RocketGuy Thanks.

We have an uncertain relationship with bird life.

I think my yard birds know and trust me, but I have to approach them very slowly and intently, as any noise or sudden movement makes them fly to perch 20 feet above me.

Patty_Melt's avatar

In regards to the rhino, mommies get insane when their babies are in peril. A trapped baby is an easy lunch, so she would go nuts keeping everything away, scared for baby and herself.

I saw a video of a baby elephant trapped in a water hole. People helped, but first they had to blare their horns to keep mommy scared away. Once baby was free, they nudged it toward mommy. The poor thing was so weak it could barely walk. Mommy stood with it and gave a long look at the people before turning away. It was hard to tell if it was fear, gratitude, confusion, or something like, “Okay, but this doesn’t make us friends.”
So, maybe they feel some sort of gratitude, but later, after panic wears off.

kritiper's avatar

@Dutchess_III Koko the gorilla was taught to “talk,” or rather, sign. What have you taught your duck to say today? And can your duck sign (or semaphore) with feathered wings??

Dutchess_III's avatar

Why are you even comparing ducks and primates @kripter? What is your point.

Yellowdog's avatar

Because someone brought up Koko, and I mentioned that Koko was the only non-human mind we have access to its communication and comprehension ability. e.g. Do animals understand what humans understand?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I don’t think they can understand what we think but many of them understand what we say.
Animals understand their things their way, not human ways. I am fairly certain we are working on a much high plane that any animal, even Koko.

kritiper's avatar

Soooooooooooo ducks are on the same mental, intellectual plain as gorillas… and can understand spoken English… without being taught…
...is that what you’re saying, @Dutchess_III ???

Dutchess_III's avatar

No. I don’t know where you get such ridiculous leaps of assumption @kritiper. No where, in any of my comments, did I suggest ducks are on the same intellectual plane as gorillas. Go ahead and look back. I’ll wait.
Also, if I have to fill in “they can understand what we say, either if they’re taught or by repeating the same word or phrases over and over until they make the connection,” then that misses my whole point and it’s really wordy and people won’t want to read it all.
They can’t understand how we think. If trained, they can understand some of what we say. There is no way we can train them to know what we are thinking.
I can’t believe I had to spell that out for you. What is wrong with you?

kritiper's avatar

@Dutchess_III “Koko the gorilla knew what she was saying. And she definitely expressed gratitude.”
Here you are clearly implying that the duck and the gorilla are of the same mental capacities. Otherwise, why bring up Koko?
And, @Dutchess_III , “I don’t think they can understand what we think but many of them understand what we say.” You are giving animals WAY to much credit in the realm of their understanding humans. Your dog may understand you to a certain degree, but not some wild duck you have never met before.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, I can’t stop you from from look obtuse @kritiper, so I won’t even try.

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Dutchess_III's avatar

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