He's back and he loves to quack


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Among the new members of the Sergio Squad volunteering their time to care for the fowl made famous last year are Suntree Elementary School teacher Jana Gabrielski's class members Ryan Rinconnes, with Sergio, Kadie Zulon and Andy Scheinbart.

He's back. And his favorite word rhymes with back — as in quack.

Sergio the duck returned to Jana Gabrielski's sixth-grade class at Suntree Elementary School. The duck who thinks he is a student — or that his fellow classmates are ducks — spent the summer at a favorite graduating student's home and returned to greet the new members of Sergio's Squad, the team name for students who volunteer to come early and stay late seeing to their feathered friend's care.

“He's kind of bitey, but it doesn't really hurt,” sixth-grader Ryan Rinconnes said. Nibbling is Sergio's way of expressing affection, Gabrielski said, smoothing out his loved one's feathers that just happen to be in the form of a shirt.

“He's like the mayor, strutting and bobbing and checking everyone out, saying hello,” Gabrielski said.

One of the reasons Sergio captured the hearts of children and the imagination of the media is that he roams the classroom and sometimes the outside corridors as he pleases, thanks to a specially fitted diaper to prevent accidents.

“He grew over the summer so we've got a larger one on order,” Gabrielski said.

Other times, he hangs out in a specially made outdoor pen with two kiddie pools that the Squad keeps clean.

Part of the reason for Sergio's unusual bond — he likes to be held, loves to be hugged and adores being scratched — is that he was the only one of 40 eggs to hatch in a spring class project. With no actual mother duck, he imprinted on Gabrielski and will follow her everywhere. With no other feathered siblings, he believes the students are his fellow hatchlings.

Why is it noteworthy that a duck would quack? He barely made a sound through the end of the last school year, making it impossible to tell whether Sergio was actually a male or a female. Females have a higher pitched voice and only the males give a throaty croak. Once he matured during the summer, Sergio's voice matured as well, and he grew a tell-tale curly drake feather on his behind.

No need to rename him Sheila.