Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Duck, Duck, White Duck February 23, 2022

A cluster of ducks, including two white ducks, follow the partially frozen Cannon River in downtown Northfield. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

“DUCK, DUCK, GRAY DUCK!” If you’re not a native Minnesotan, you might stop me right here and protest. “It’s Duck, Duck, Goose!” you likely would correct. And then I would protest.

Ducks border both sides of the Cannon River on a February afternoon in Northfield. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

A few years back, in October 2017 to be exact, a tight end for the Minnesota Vikings initiated a game of Duck, Duck, Goose following a touchdown. Ohio native Kyle Rudolph was quickly corrected. Here in Minnesota, we term that children’s game Duck, Duck, Gray Duck. Not Goose. But Gray Duck. That set off a storm of conversations in which many a Minnesotan defended our name for this game which involves participants sitting in a circle, tapping each other on the head and calling out “Duck” or assorted versions thereof. The child pegged as the “Gray Duck” then tries to catch the person who is “It.”

Nearly camouflaged against a snowy backdrop, an uncommon white duck. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

Duck thoughts fly through my head as I consider a scene on the Cannon River in the heart of downtown Northfield Sunday afternoon. There, among the drake mallards with brilliant iridescent green heads and the hens in their unassuming shades of brown, were four white ducks. All white with brilliant orange beaks and webbed feet.

Looking the other direction from the pedestrian bridge offers a view of ducks edging the open river. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

I was thrilled to finally see these white ducks Randy has previously spotted flying over Northfield on his way to work. These, he said, are not domestic ducks given their propensity to fly just like any other wild duck.

I watched this pair for awhile and they appeared to get along just fine. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

We can only guess at their origins since we are uninformed, except when it comes to Duck, Duck, Gray Duck. Perhaps the white ducks resulted from a genetic mutation. Or the mixing of wild and domesticated. Whatever the reason, these waterfowl drew our interest.

Ducks hang out together on the frozen Cannon River. (Minnesota Prairie Roots copyrighted photo February 2022)

I wondered if the other ducks would exclude/shun/avoid the white ducks. As I watched them walk across the ice and swim in patches of open water, I observed no ostracization. We could learn a thing or ten from those ducks.

© Copyright 2022 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


20 Responses to “Duck, Duck, White Duck”

  1. beth Says:

    it’s duck, duck, goose here ! and i love that everyone mixed in the water world without worrying about names, we could learn from them

  2. Well I learns something today. 😊. We have mallards and some cute buffleheads on our lake this winter that we love watching.

  3. I played Duck Duck Gray Duck in kindergarten. 🙂 Those white ducks are beautiful!

    • I played that game a lot too. Didn’t every Minnesota kid of our era? And, yes, those white ducks are beautiful. I loved seeing and watching them, especially how all of the ducks interacted.

      • Yes I believe every kid of our era did play it! Those white ducks mixed with the mallards remind me of the white squirrels and black squirrels we have in our neighborhood. I never get tired of seeing them and being startled by how lovely they are. The gray squirrels don’t seem to notice any difference.

      • Interesting that you have white and black squirrels in your neighborhood. I’ve never seen a white squirrel in Faribault and, I don’t think, a black one either. Ours are the typical gray and gray-reddish in color.

  4. Beautiful white ducks as well as the Mallard ducks. I can’t say that I have ever heard that rhyme that why before.

  5. Valerie Says:

    I’ve seen those white ducks in town but I’m not sure how they got here. 😉

  6. 😊 ohhhh the games of children! Also most all the kids are blind to color and play with nearly anybody. Something all adults could learn.
    I have been watching a pair of ducks for about a week now from my office window (one male European mallard and a white female) going up and down the canal together. Thinking baby ducklings at some point here.😊

    • Exactly my point in my closing sentence…that we could all learn from these ducks about simply seeing “ducks,” not color. You’re absolutely right about most kids, especially young kids. Thinking of you especially today.

      • Thanks for the thoughts. We all will need prayers in the coming months as this situation develops. Seriously this is not what the World needed right now! I read in the Star Tribune how it will affect Cardill as they have huge agricultural investments in the Ukraine. Sad days ahead.

      • Paula, I’ve definitely thought of you as events unfold in Ukraine. Take good care, my friend. My prayers continue.

  7. Tami Resler Says:

    There was a flock of Canada Geese here that used to migrate through with a domestic gray goose. Every year we’d amuse ourselves with imagining what it was doing with them. But I haven’t seen him in the last year or two. It’s so interesting to wonder where these other fowl come from!

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