Make Way for Ducklings

Make Way for Ducklings

VIDEO: These ducklings are enjoying a bit of water time while their brooder is being cleaned and their
food refreshed.

Ten fluffy babies were rescued from a waterway in Larkspur. Residents nearby had watched the group of ducklings paddling after their mother for a couple of days.

But then the mother duck was gone! A mother Mallard will not voluntarily leave her brood alone for more than a few minutes, so something bad must have happened to her.

Observers watched the little ducklings continue to paddle around the lagoon in a little flotilla, but they knew that, without their mother, these ducklings wouldn’t last long. Fortunately, they knew to call WildCare’s Living with Wildlife Hotline at 7415-456-7283 for help.

Our Hotline operator helped get a Marin Humane officer dispatched to capture the ducklings and bring them to WildCare’s Wildlife Hospital. Ducklings are challenging to capture, so the fact that the officer was able to rescue all ten ducklings safely is a testament to her skills! She brought them to WildCare, where they received exams to make sure they were uninjured and were placed in a heated incubator to rest and recover.

These ten babies will grow up at WildCare until they are old enough to return to the wild. Watch them in the video above, taken about a week later, enjoying some water time while their brooder is cleaned and fresh food is provided.

Ducklings like these will be in care at WildCare for a couple of months. You can help! Become a Monthly Donor to WildCare and have your gifts matched for a year if you give before May 15!

Dangers for Ducklings

Ducklings are born precocial, meaning that they can walk, swim and eat adult food almost as soon as they emerge from the egg. Mallards lay as many as ten eggs, and when the babies hatch, they must immediately get busy following their mother as she leads them to water.

That journey can be a perilous one.

Mother Mallard with ducklings. Photo by Marianne HaleA mother duck makes a gentle clucking noise to keep her brood together, and the babies peep in response. But ducks can’t count, so if a duckling gets separated from his family Mama won’t notice that he’s missing if he’s out of sight and she can’t hear his peeping.

Mallard moms are attentive to their babies, but if a duckling gets separated from his family group, he needs help! If you find a solo duckling, do what you can to contain him and then please call WildCare’s Living with Wildlife Hotline at 415-456-SAVE (7283). That little one will likely need immediate care, so he’ll probably need to come to WildCare. Just make sure you DON’T open the box once you have the duckling contained, as ducklings can jump surprisingly high and will end up loose in your car!

Mother ducks everywhere will be leading their broods to water, so keep an eye out for family groups navigating dangerous situations like street crossings! Give wildlife a “brake” and lots of space in situations like these. If it’s safe for you to do so, helping keep cars, bicycles and pedestrians back from the duck family can save many tiny lives.

It’s easy for wildlife like ducklings to become trapped in backyard pools– most pools are built with walls above the water line that make it easy to get into the water but impossible for non-flighted little ones to get back out. If you don’t want wildlife visitors to your pool, keeping it covered is the best solution. Alternatively, you can provide easy-out ramps for trapped wildlife. A product called a FrogLog is a good option, click to learn more about FrogLogs. Plastic or wooden ramps (braced so they don’t float away) are an easy-to-construct alternative. Be sure to place several ramps or FrogLogs on opposite sides of the pool, as a desperate duckling won’t know to swim around the pool to get out on the other side.

Click here for an informative PDF on ducks and duck deterrents compiled by our Living with Wildlife Hotline staff.

WildCare’s Director of Animal Care Rescues a Mallard Family

On a recent weekday morning, a Mallard mother was leading her family of ten newly-hatched ducklings down the busy neighborhood street our Director of Animal Care, Melanie Piazza, lives on. Spotting the little family marching down the sidewalk, Melanie knew the ducks were several blocks from the nearest water source. With storm drains, dogs and cats, cars and innumerable other hazards between the ducks and the safety of water, the odds were terribly against the mother Mallard and all ten of her ducklings making it safely!

Fortunately Melanie has a lot of experience with ducks, and she knew she could help.

Although mother ducks are very attentive, if she panics, the mother duck may fly away and abandon her ducklings, leaving them orphaned. Capturing a fully-flighted healthy adult duck out in the open is next to impossible, so, thinking quickly, Melanie decided to gently net the ducklings, and, using their peeping calls, lure the mother duck into the backyard of her home where she could contain the duck in her catio (a “cat patio”… click to read more about catios and how to keep indoor cats safe and happy!) Once the duck was contained in the enclosed catio, Melanie was able to capture her too.

[well]Capturing a mother mallard and her babies is something that should only be attempted by an experienced wildlife professional! In this situation, every effort must be made to keep the entire family of ducks calm and in close proximity to one another. Allowing mother and young to walk on their own to water is always the first and best choice so as to not risk the ducklings being orphaned or injured. But in an extremely unsafe situation, experts should be called in. Keep WildCare’s Living with Wildlife Hotline number handy 415-456-7283 so you can call us if you see wildlife in danger.[/well]

Once they were contained, with the ducklings in one carrier and the mother duck in another, Melanie drove the ducks to the closes area with excellent Mallard habitat. The mother duck and ducklings were able to see and hear each other the entire time, which helped keep the family calm.

When Melanie opened the carriers, she was careful to open the one containing the ducklings first, so the mother duck would see them and know to stay with her family.

Watch the video below of the whole rescue and see Mama and her babies swim to the safety of a lovely pond!

What should you do if you see a duck family in a similar situation?

Call WildCare’s Living with Wildlife Hotline immediately at 415-456-7283 for advice and assistance! We will likely help you connect with your local animal control (we’re so lucky to work with Marin Humane in our county!) to capture the ducklings and bring them to your nearest wildlife care center like WildCare.

VIDEO: Watch WildCare’s Director of Animal Care rescue a family of Mallards!