Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Helping Ducklings

           I've had several requests for advice on what to do about Ducklings that seem miles from a water course.
Ducks are quite canny creatures when it comes to picking safe nesting spots, so much so that they are often up to half a mile from a water course, perhaps in a nice secluded garden or railway embankment or the like.

The mothers will usually try to get them to a local water source in the morning within a day of hatching. They are already partly waterproofed by the mothers oily under feathers, hence the reason they can take to the water immediately. Getting to the water can be a real trial, crossing roads, and avoiding predators like cats dogs, crows, and gulls. If you see a duck with a brood walking down a street or road, the chances are she knows where she is going to get them to the river or burn. The main thing anyone can do to help is not to obstruct her, but walk slowly behind thereby keeping predators away, and be ready to escort her across any busy roads. Don't be tempted to get in front of her to get a photo on your phone, as this might spook her and divert her away from where she is going. Ducklings are too small to eat at this stage and only require water for the first 24 hours, they are living on the energy of the yolk sac they had when hatched. Throwing bread to them can be a fatal mistake, as this will only bring down Crows and gulls who will gladly take all the ducklings in no time ! Escort them to the water if at all possible and you will have done the right thing.

If they are trapped and cannot get out, the mother will usually kick up a noisy fuss, it is possible to catch the ducklings fairly easily and free them so the mother can do her job. The mother can usually fly out of any situation, but the ducklings cant. Catching the mother first requires a bit of skill and should only be attempted if absolutely necessary, she will not leave the ducklings unless spooked badly. Providing a shallow water tray for the ducklings trapped in a garden is the best option, until a strategy is devised and help is summoned.

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