Mallard Ducklings

John Bailey <johngregorybailey@...>

Mallard moms and Mallard ducklings are about, in nature’s byways as well as the byways of mankind. Two days ago the groundskeeper of my residential complex in Carpinteria reported one Mallard mom and THIRTEEN ducklings paddling about in our pool. Shooing this flotilla to safety with a leaf-catcher pole proved ineffective as the wee ones were not able to jump from pool surface to coping yet were fast enough to avoid being scooped up.

I learned of the birds' predicament when I visited our hot tub in the evening. Thirteen ducklings had been reduced to eleven. Neighborhood cats perhaps? Feeling the ducklings would not make it through the night paddling about on the cool pool surface, I determined to herd them from pool to nearby bushes. Mom boogied for the bushes with three of her little ones, ducklings who managed to scramble up the backs of their brothers and sisters and make the coping. I placed my towel in the water, on the top entry step, hoping the rest of the ducklings would make use of it to rejoin Mom, clucking from the protection of the shrubs.

I left the birds to themselves for an hour. Returning to the pool, I could detect no evidence of mom or the sheltering three. Enough! With a little patience, I managed to scoop up the swimmers. I placed them in a cardboard box with bread crumbs and a shallow dish of water. All survived till morning, crowded together in one corner of the box.

My best chance of placing these ducklings with another female Mallard was Lake Los Carneros, far end of the dam where birds gathered for bread-crumb handouts. Sure enough, there were a number of Mallards about, mostly males . . . but there was one female, and she was escorting two wee ones, and a head-bobbing male was close at hand.

I released one duckling through the wire fence. It ran / tumbled down the face of the dam to join the hen and her two little ones. I watched for rejection for a few minutes, but it was all happiness. I let go a second, then a third and all of them. The head-bobbing drake was kept apart from this growing gang by a protective mother. An hour later, all—drake included—were resting at the other end of the dam, seemingly one happy family.

John Bailey
Carpinteria Bird Photographer