A little unexpected interlude from last week. I encountered an unusual sight when I came back to my car following my weekly Pilates class – a mother duck and 8 little ducklings were meandering through the nearby shopping centre car park dodging cars and Christmas shoppers alike. With the day starting to heat up and no obvious water source it was more concerning than cute.
After a while there were 3 of us trying to cajole the little group along. Several phone calls to the local council and various animal rescue groups (including the RSPCA) established that the mother duck almost always knows what she’s doing and would be leading the ducklings back to her usual territory from the nesting site (which is a fair way from the waterside due to fears of predators). The essential thing was not to spook her or she might take flight and abandon her brood. The problem was she kept stopping for little rests often under someone’s car! After several impromptu traffic stops, Mother Duck finally left the car park followed by her adorable tiny ducklings and waddled off down a side street, which had far more shade and shelter in the form of native bushes.
We knew that she must be heading to a local wetlands reserve, Lake Gwelup, which is only a couple of blocks away down the hill but mum decided that her little family needed a rest and so they took up residence under a particularly large and prickly bush near a roundabout. We poured the last of our water bottles over the area to moisten it for them and decided it was best to leave them to find the rest of the way by themselves (by this time our little rescue mission had taken up nearly 2 hours!).
I went back the next day with Monsieur and had a good forage around the bushes – no sign of any ducks or ducklings nor any that had met with misfortune in any of the neighbouring roads. Finally we headed down to Lake Gwelup and walked round a bit. There was a cacophony of noise coming from the tall reeds by the lakeside and a gathering of ducks and ducklings nearby along with some black swans.
From what I’ve now read the waddle back to the water from their nest is a rite of passage for young ducklings – a journey they undertake with their mother at only a day or so old. Best advice is not to interfere unless there is an obvious danger such as a car park or busy main road in which case gently corral them in a safer direction. The number one thing to avoid is the mother literally taking flight as the ducklings have no chance of survival without her (and hand rearing is very difficult and requires animal specialists).
These ducks were Pacific Black Ducks (actually brown but with a distinctive turquoise marking near their wing base called a speculum). They are well suited to the often harsh Australian climate although predators do account for quite a few of them and unfortunately they have a tendency to mate with the introduced Mallards, which are not so adaptable to Australian conditions.
However, fingers crossed, these little ones will be swimming round the lake for some time to come!
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