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Life at Boomer Lake with Deb--Special Edition
This was the only day that I saw Mallard ducklings, April 29. Today, I was pleasantly surprised, for there were an additional two families, other than my first born. Six were located first, and then I came up with another nineteen at the northern end of Boomer Lake. Mallards are like Canada Geese, and they also tend to adopt those without families of their own. Motherhood is generally a strong bond, no matter what the species. There are always exceptions to the rule, just like anything else.
These abundant birds can be found nearly anywhere there is shallow, fresh water. Some of them even reside in salt marshes and inlets and bays. They primarily dabble for plants and algae, and will also take in small crustaceans, mollusks and insects. The young are precocial, which means that they are in the water shortly after hatching, and there is one brood each year per pair.
Fortunately, Mallards are very adaptable to humanity and will live and nest virtually anywhere. They will even hybridize with other waterfowl, so pure breeds could tend to die out where there have been domestic ducks released.
Brisk Winds Can Be Hard on Tiny Ducklings
Mallards are sometimes susceptible to parasitic brooding by Lesser Scaup, Ruddy Ducks, Redheads, Pintails, Northern Shovelers, Cinnamon Teal, Common Goldeneyes, and even other Mallards. These eggs are generally accepted when they resemble the eggs of the host Mallard, although the hen may attempt to eject them or even abandon the nest if parasitism occurs during egg laying. Mallards of all ages (but especially young ones) and in all locations must contend with a wide diversity of predators, which includes raptors, the Corvids(Magpies, jays, crows, etc.), opposums, snakes, turtles, skunks, large fish, etc. The most prolific natural predators of adult Mallards are fox and hawks, although both kill far fewer than humans.
Have Your Own Mallard Souvenir
During spring duckling season of '04 at Tri-State Bird Rescue, I recall a large group that I helped to care for during my shifts. There was one that was picked on by all the ducklings, very meek and quiet little one. I used to take him to the bathtub to swim, and he didn't want to be left alone, as he would cry and peep incessantly. I'd bathe him, cup my hands, and let the warm water run down his back and he would swim and play for about 20 minutes. Then when it was time to return him to the duck room, I'd carry him on my shoulder in a towel. He would quack, and so would I on the return trip. I guess we talked to each other too much, as a few heads would peer out of rooms, thinking that there was a loose duckling in the hallway. Oh, well, I guess I played the part well enough.
It's Not All Wine and Roses For Wildlife
As much as we would like to think that it is easy for our nature, it proves to be a daily challenge. There are predators to be astute to and flee from successfully, and be lucky enough to survive what humanity has created. There are fishing lines that can cut off the circulation to legs if wrapped around them, plastic bags cannot be digested, plastic rings that hold soda cans together can choke the life out of an animal. Lead shot is especially deadly, as dabblers like these beautiful ducklings can ingest these pellets. Lead poisoning is an extremely slow and painful death.
Help us to keep trash in the proper receptacles, so that our wildlife can survive pain free and have as good a life as possible without human intervention. Please keep the "wild" in wildlife. In the meantime, happy birding, and thanks for everything that you do to help our animals.
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