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Urban Mallards

Mallard - Jim Cruce

It is a common and somewhat harrowing sight to see a duckleading a string of ducklings across a busy road or through the middleof a highly urbanized area.

Many of the calls we receive duringthe spring and early summer are from people who want to know "Why arethey here?" and "How can I help them?" The following are some answersto the most common spring waterfowl questions:

A duck is incubating eggs in my backyard, parking lot, porch, balcony, etc. How long will she be here?

Mallardsincubate their eggs between 26-30 days. Males typically desert afterthe first week of incubation, and the female is left to complete theprocess and raise the young.

Mallard ducklings areprecocial, meaning that they are able to feed and move about on theirown within minutes of hatching. They are, however, dependant on themother for guidance, protection and waterproofing. She will typicallylead them to appropriate habit within a day of hatching, and they remainwith her for 42-60 days.

Why do mallards sometimes nest far from water?

Mallardslook for nesting locations away from likely predators. In urbanenvironments this may include raccoons, coyotes, dogs and cats. Urbanparks are typically over-populated with ducks, and females may also lookfor nesting locations away from drakes (male ducks) that may attempt tocopulate with them even after egg laying. It is not uncommon for ducksto nest as far as a mile from water.

What should I do if I see a mallard with ducklings?

Oncethe young hatch, mallards will lead their young to water. Sometimesthis requires traversing a hazardous route. It may require crossingroads. Although it is tempting to try and "rescue" the ducklings, it isimportant to allow the mother to continue to care for her own young.

Insituations where it is safe to do so, humans can try and stop trafficto allow the ducklings safe passage. Otherwise the mother duck shouldbe left to care for and lead her own young.

Attemptsto capture the young and transport them to "safer" locations frequentlycause the mother to "spook" and fly away. Ducklings will often scatterand can be very difficult to catch. Although well meaning, attempts tointerfere usually make a bad situation even worse.

What should I do if I find a lost or abandoned duckling?

Ducklingsfrequently become separated from their mothers. If the mother isbelieved to be nearby, it is best to leave the duckling alone. It will"peep" and alert the mother to its whereabouts.

Ifthe mother has been spooked and has left her ducklings behind, they canbe gathered and placed into a cardboard box with the top open to thesky. She will usually circle back shortly to relocate her ducklings.

If there are ducklings known to be orphaned, they may be brought to Portland Audubon's Wildlife Care Center.

What should I do if I find an injured or malformed duckling?

Duckstypically have between 8-10 young. Most of those will not survive toadulthood. Birth defects and developmental problems are common inducklings.

Those that are not thriving are leftbehind so that the mother can focus on those with the best chance.Injured ducklings can be brought to the Wildlife Care Center. However, these types of problems are typically not "fixable" and deformed and badly injured ducklings are usually euthanized.

Why do the males attack the females?

"DrakeRape" is a common occurrence in urban parks. Several males may attemptto copulate with a single female at the same time. Oftentimes thisleads to injuries along the neck, back and legs.

Inextreme cases it can lead to death from either trauma or drowning. Thisbehavior is associated with over-crowding and it is exacerbated by thefact that the large domestic ducks that are often found in parks arebred for food rather than for survival and are not built to escape.

Why is there so much color variation in our park mallards?

Manyducks found in parks are abandoned domestic ducks (and theiroff-spring) that have been bought at pet and feed stores and thenreleased into the wild.

Releasing domestic ducksinto the wild is illegal and punishable by both fines and jailsentences. It is also inhumane as these ducks typically have adifficult time surviving and exacerbate the over-population problemsthat already exist in urban parks.

Wildlife Care Center Duck Intake Policy

TheWildlife Care Center accepts injured adult mallards for rehabilitation.Our goal for healthy native mallards is to rehabilitate these birds andreturn them to the wild.

In cases where ducks areclearly domestic, donors should be aware that these are "abandoned"domestic animals that require not only treatment but also a permanentcaptive home. Donors may take direct responsibility for these animalsthemselves.

If transported to the Wildlife CareCenter, they will be treated and placed in permanent captive situationsas resources allow. It is possible that domestic ducks will also beeuthanized.

See our page on Feeding Waterfowl . Download Living with Urban Mallards Brochure.

Mallard with ducklings - Rick Brummble
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