This Duckling Nearly Drowned

This Duckling Nearly Drowned

A mother Mallard leads her ducklings to water as soon as possible after they hatch, but the water source she chooses isn't always safe!

This duckling's mother led him and his siblings to a swimming pool where, unfortunately, it was easy for the ducklings to get in, but impossible for them to get back out!

The homeowner spotted the ducklings struggling in the water and scooped them out with a net. This little one had clearly had a very hard time — he was chilled and gasping for breath. They brought him to WildCare.

Although ducklings can swim almost as soon as they hatch, they get tired and cold easily. Ducklings must be able to get out of the water to rest, preen, and warm up.

In most in-ground pools, and many ponds, the water level is six inches or more below the edge of the pool. This drop is easy for ducklings to navigate when they jump INTO the pool, but there's no way for them to get back out!

Because of this risk, WildCare recommends covering your pool.

If your pool is uncovered, remember to place "frog logs" (small floating platforms that connect with a ramp to the pool side) on all four sides of the pool to give ducklings or other animals a place to get out if needed!

You can purchase brandname FrogLogs at and they work really well, but it's fairly easy to build your own small floating platform with a short ramp to the side of the pool. Be sure that the ramp gives traction to tiny duckling or frog feet, and that the angle isn't too steep to allow escape.

In the video below, WildCare's Veterinarian has warmed the tiny bird with heated towels, and she then offers him some dextrose solution from a syringe to counteract hypoglycemia and give him some energy.

Every spring and summer during Wildlife Baby Season, WildCare takes in over a hundred orphaned baby Mallards. Sometimes they are brought in alone but it’s not uncommon for us to admit groups of eight or ten ducklings at once!

This spring has been unusual in that we have only admitted a trickle of single ducklings, meaning we didn't have a flock-mate for this fluffy baby. Once he had stabilized, we transferred him to our friends at International Bird Rescue, where they have several ducklings in care. He will grow up in care and be released with his new siblings once he's old enough.

Mallard Nests

Mallard females lay pale green eggs and can have more than a dozen in a single clutch. If you come across a duck nest, please don’t disturb it and definitely don’t try to move it, even if it seems like an unfavorable place for a nest.

It may be tempting to try and help mama duck by leaving some food nearby for her, but this can do more harm than good! The smell of food attracts hungry animals to an otherwise camouflaged and protected nest site. Predators and scavengers attracted by human-provided food will gladly eat the nutritious eggs.

Photo © fotoparus / Adobe Stock

Photo © fotoparus / Adobe Stock

How You Can Help Ducklings This Spring

Most mallards choose nest sites that are relatively close to water, but depending on the area and its hazards, the presence of predators, and competition from other ducks, some will choose to nest a mile or more from the closest water source.

Ducklings are precocial, meaning they hatch wide-eyed and ready to go, only hanging around the nest area long enough for their fluffy down feathers to dry before following mom to water. Depending on where they nest, the journey can be treacherous; it’s not too hard to imagine how babies occasionally end up left behind and orphaned.

Photo © madscinbca / Adobe Stock

Here are some tips to help ducklings this spring:

  • Any duckling (or gosling!) who is alone needs immediate rescue and care. A group of ducklings needs help if they are truly alone, but be cautious about "kidnapping" ducklings whose mother may be just around the next bend waiting for them. If you see ducklings, but no mom, watch from a distance. If you don't spot mom after a few minutes, or if the ducklings appear to be in distress (peeping, swimming frantically), they may be orphaned. Call WildCare for advice at 415-456-7283.
  • If you see a lone duckling, call us immediately at 415-456-7283 and we can walk you through the best way to rescue the little one.
  • Listen for stranded ducklings in storm drains! It's easy for ducklings to get separated from their families by rushing water in gutters. If you hear the tell-tale peeping of a duckling in distress below a sewer grate, call WildCare. In Marin County, Marin Humane will be able to help. In other counties or states, the local fire department (call the non-emergency line) may be your best bet to mobilize help for the wayward ducklings.
  • If you see a Mallard family crossing a road and it is SAFE FOR YOU TO DO SO, consider helping them across by alerting other drivers to slow down.
  • Help WildCare be ready for the next group of ducklings headed our way! Donate now!