About two weeks ago my husband and I noticed a mama Mallard and her two ducklings hanging around our pond. We both figured it had to be her second brood they begin nesting in early spring and through July.
We missed out on the first batch of nesting Mallards (back in May, early June). We had two couples hanging around for awhile but for some reason there were no babies. That can happen sometimes if other critters raid the nests or sometimes the mama will abandon them.
Needless to say, we were (or at least I was) pretty happy to see baby mallard ducks present at our pond in early August. They seem to like it around here because they have never left the area.
Every morning when I go out to feed the birds there is mama duck and her little ones expecting some of the good stuff too. I usually throw out a handful of seed to them and they scurry up to get as much as they can. Always very entertaining to watch.
NOTE: Some people might think that feeding these wild ducks is not a good idea because they will become dependent on it. However, in my experience these last ten years living around a pond, this will not happen. I have found that they move on once migration starts.
I was sitting out on my deck one day watching hummingbirds zip around when I heard mama duck make two low key quacking sounds. This made me curious so I stood up and looked down to see her fly off leaving her babies behind on the side of the pond. There they were all alone clinging close to one another as I watched them from above. I kind of felt like a baby duck sitter. ;-).
Believe it or not this is not unusual behavior. Mama mallards may leave their young several times a day for about ten minutes just so they can get some exercise particularly for their wings.
I decided to stick around to see just how long mama duck would be gone and how she might return. Was she going to come back quietly so as not to draw attention to herself or what? So I sat there waiting and watching and then all of a sudden I heard her below. I never saw her fly in but there she was making her quiet quacking sound down below. She left for exactly eleven minutes.
There have been at least two occasions when mama came back and her babies were not where she thought she left them (or the babies decided to take a little walk). She kept quacking and quacking, not loudly but loud enough I guess for her young to hear. Then she took off right across the way and found them hiding in the weeds along the water.
Yes, it is very fun and interesting to watch nature at its finest.
Millie is my seven pound Yorkie who thinks she is queen of the yard. Heck, she thinks she is queen of everything. Millie likes to take off out the door and go chasing anything that might be in her sight (squirrels, birds,). She never catches anything because when she gets too close she slows down, so that whatever it is she is chasing can get away.
Millie decided to chase after the baby Mallards one morning but got stopped by Mama Duck. Mama Duck was angry and started flying at Millie and quacking and Millie did not like that at all. I think Mama Duck won because now Millie sees here when she goes out the door and heads the opposite way. Mama Duck doesn’t seem to pay any mind when Millie comes out either. I guess you could say they live in harmony.
The Big Scare
One of the negative things about having those cute little ducklings around is that sometimes snapping turtles, raccoons, or any other type critter will find them and yes, eat them. Unfortunately, that is what happens in nature.
I have never seen it actually happen but just assume it when the number of baby ducks start to dwindle day after day. You will see mamas (the males do not stick around after the babies hatch) start out with nine or so young and then end up with one or two and sometimes all seem to disappear. It is hard to watch for sure.
This is what my husband and I thought happened last Sunday to one of the ducklings. I walked out on the deck with my coffee and my husband tells me right away that mama duck must have lost one of her young last night. He only saw one. Mama Duck was out there calling and calling, walking back and forth with her one duckling falling her, in the cattails, frantically looking for her other baby. It wasn’t easy to hear much less observe.
As I sipped my coffee, I listened to the mama carry on for a few more minutes when my husband claims that he can hear the other baby. We looked and looked but didn’t see anything and then all of a sudden the mama took off to the other side of the pond, with the other baby following her. My husband and I just stood there watching. Mama Duck got very, very quiet just standing there in the cattails and seemed to be listening for the other baby and waiting. I decided to go into the house so that I could get a closer view through our dining room window, which looks out onto the pond and cattails where the ducks were.
AND… you know what? There, on the other side of the road comes the other duckling, walking towards Mama Duck as if nothing happened. I thought, well that is one little adventurous duck leaving its mama for about half an hour. What a happy reunion that was! Not to mention, how happy I was too.
After a closer look at the whole situation though, my husband pointed out that the duckling came right across the road right above where the culvert is. It is an open drain on the side of the pond. We decided that the poor thing must have walked inside the culvert and then fell down a few feet into the tunnel that runs about one hundred to one hundred fifty feet under the road. We think that it must have followed the light to the other side and then came up over the hill, crossing the road back to her mama.
Later that day we noticed the duckling limping a little but it seems to have recovered since then because it moves around just as well as it’s sibling now. Whew! What a relief.
It has been three weeks since mama Mallard and her babies appeared out of nowhere at our pond. They are all still present today waiting for me to feed them in the morning and moving about the pond feeding on the vegetation, insects, and worms or floating around in the water. It can make my whole day. Hopefully, they will stay a little while longer so that I can see the ducklings fly off to their next chapter of life.
How about you? Are you fortunate enough to have baby Mallards around your pond or yard this summer? Let me know your thoughts or experiences with them. I would love to hear from you.
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