GREENFIELD — Rosealini the duck may have heard about Hoosier hospitality before making a stop in Greenfield last week.

The arctic seabird was found bleeding in the middle of the road by a Good Samaritan and her daughter on Dec. 21 and was soon delivered to a local wildlife rehabilitator for some rest and relaxation.

Aubrey Althoff was driving her 7-year-old daughter, RazLynn, to Weston Elementary School just before 7:30 a.m. when the pair spotted the duck in the middle of Fourth Street, between School and Wilson streets.

“Initially, we saw a cat swatting at something, so we pulled up and, to our surprise, it was a duck,” said Althoff.

The pair tried unsuccessfully to catch the hapless duck, which persistently waddled from their grasp, but Althoff promised her daughter she’d try again as soon as she dropped her off at school.

“(RazLynn) was crying, and I told her if she was still there I was going to save her,” said the mom, who was able to make good on her promise.

“(The duck) was still there but it took me about 15 minutes to actually catch her. I think she was a bit in a state of shock,” said Althoff.

“She had blood dried up on her left breast area, and she wasn’t capable of flying. That right there told me she needed some help, and I couldn’t just let her sit there,” she said.

Althoff thought the duck was perhaps more of a “toddler duck” at first due to its small size — weighing only a pound. She also thought the blue markings on its bill were unique.

“I knew she was different. I had never seen a duck like her, but I never expected her to be so far from home,” she said.

Althoff later discovered it was a long-tailed duck, a sea bird which often flies in large flocks out at sea.

She eventually caught the duck with her hands and placed her on a blanket in a laundry basket in the back seat of her car. She then headed home and posted a picture on Facebook, asking if anyone had any suggestions on what to do.

A friend gave her the number for Hancock Wildlife Rescue & Rehabilitation in Fortville.

The owner, Jennifer Hancock, promptly transported the duck to the Avian & Exotic Animal Clinic in Indianapolis for treatment and a night’s rest before taking it into her care.

Now christened Rosealini Pearl Sparks by RazLynn — who shared her own middle and last name — the duck spent four additional nights with Hancock resting and getting back to good health.

The day after Christmas, Hancock invited Althoff and RazLynn to help release their new friend back into the wild at an undisclosed location in Hancock County.

“We were a little sad to see her go, but even RazLynn said she needs to get back home,” said Althoff. “We were all very happy that we could help save her and get her back to where she needs to be.”

She and Hancock had been pleasantly surprised to learn the duck had no injuries, but simply needed to rest. Hancock surmised the blood on its chest may have been caused by a blood feather, the emerging of a new feather.

“At first glance, I wasn’t sure what kind of duck it was,” Hancock recalled.

“I hadn’t seen one like this before, so I started doing some research. One of my volunteers and I came across the long-tailed duck, and we were pretty sure that’s what it was, although I had never seen one in person.”

The veterinarian who treated Rosealini had never seen a long-tailed duck in person either, but confirmed it was part of that species.


Hancock said the long-tail duck is not so much rare as it is rarely sighted outside of the arctic region.

“They’re migratory ducks, so it’s not super unusual for them to come down this far, but it’s not something we see much around here. They’re normally a lot farther north,” she said.

“I think the more weird situation is just where this one was found, not near any body of water but out in the middle of the street in Greenfield,” said Hancock, who was happy to play a role in the duck’s recovery.

“They weren’t able to find any injuries, but it definitely needed a few days to rest. It was very weak,” said the certified rehabber, who fed Rosealini duck food and fish and administered medication during its stay at her home.

On Tuesday, she invited Althoff and RazLynn to help release Rosealini into a lake near her home.

“It was so exciting,” said Hancock.

“I set the duck down on a rock that was kind of in the water and it immediately just took off and started splashing. They’re known as a diving duck and can dive up to 200 feet to catch its food, so it would go under for what seemed like a while and then pop back up. It was really cute,” she said.

Both Althoff and Hancock believe the little duck will have no problem finding her way back home.

According to the National Audubon Society, long-tail ducks are known to spend the winter on northern waters such as the Great Lakes, Hudson Bay and the Bering Sea.

The flocks are known to fly low over the sea and are far more vocal than most ducks. They’re known to travel in flocks of hundreds of birds, whose loud, melodious calls can be heard from some distance.

Althoff said her daughter can’t stop talking about her little feathered friend, and wondering where she may be now.

“She’s over the moon talking about Rosealini. It’s been a very cool experience, for sure,” said Althoff, who was interviewed by an Indianapolis news station along with her RazLynn about their adventure.

The mother and daughter plan to go shopping soon for a stuffed animal that will always remind them of Rosealini, and the time they rescued an arctic duck at Christmastime.

Althoff said the whole experience has been fun and rewarding for both her and her daughter.

“It just goes to prove how such a small act and being a doting human can turn into something so great,” she said. “It’s also a reminder that all of us need a little bit of help sometimes.”