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Make Way For Ducklings

5-26-14 mallard & ducklings  470After having spent a month or so incubating her eggs, the mallard hen begins to hear her ducklings vocalizing from inside their eggs, roughly 24 hours before they start to hatch. She responds with quiet calls, and begins turning the eggs frequently. Within 36 hours the ducklings crack open (“pip”) their eggs with the help of an egg tooth that is lost soon after they hatch. The down of the ducklings dries within 12 hours and often the morning after her young hatch, the hen leads them to water (not necessarily the closest water to the nest). She encourages them to follow her by quacking up to 200 times a minute as they travel over land to their watery destination. The ducklings can feed on their own, consuming mostly invertebrates and seeds. Once in the water, if the ducklings start to scatter, the mother can be heard repeatedly and softly quacking to her brood to gather them around her. She will continue to provide them with cover and warmth for the next couple of weeks, especially at night and during cold weather.

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14 responses

  1. Ruth Sylvester

    Are those male and female ducklings? If so, are the numbers (sex distribution) usually so uneven? (or maybe the photo doesn’t show entire family)

    May 26, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    • The colors are not gender-related, Ruth, but I honestly can’t explain them. Hopefully someone will respond who is more familiar with duckling coloration than I. See my reply to Sally Gage.

      May 26, 2014 at 12:27 pm

  2. Sally Gage

    There are 2 different duckling colors, yellow and dark. Do these indicate gender?

    May 26, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    • I am not sure about the color variation, but it’s not indicative of gender. The darker ones have the typical coloration of mallard ducklings. Not sure about the lighter ones, but would welcome comments from those more familiar with mallard ducklings. Mallards are the ancestors of most, if not all, domestic ducks, and they do interbreed with them, which might be part of the explanation.

      May 26, 2014 at 12:25 pm

  3. Dianne and Ed

    What a precious sight……….Thanks for sharing…… Dianne

    May 26, 2014 at 12:13 pm

  4. Connie Snyder

    I

    May 26, 2014 at 12:19 pm

  5. Connie Snyder

    Am enchanted by your narrative as well as the photo and also speculating as to why there are two distinct color variations – males vs. females?

    May 26, 2014 at 12:24 pm

    • The coloration is not gender related, Connie, but I’m not sure of the explanation. See my reply to Sally Gage!

      May 26, 2014 at 12:26 pm

  6. Lebergum@aol.com

    Imagine quaking 200 times a minute? The only person I know that could keep up that pace is Joan. By the way, did you know that Hummingbirds do not have an egg tooth.

    May 26, 2014 at 12:26 pm

  7. Lebergum@aol.com

    please disregard my previous email. I meant to forward. Sorry about that 🙂

    May 26, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    • Sorry, I already approved it, but that’s fascinating about hummingbirds not having an egg tooth!

      May 26, 2014 at 12:28 pm

  8. Rebecca

    Near my house is a pond and each year a flock of ducks with their ducklings come and swim. My mom lets me feed them breed.

    May 26, 2014 at 1:01 pm

  9. Linda Willson

    Mary can you tell me what this is? It is taking over our patio. Thanks so much, Linda From: Naturally Curious with Mary Holland Reply-To: Naturally Curious with Mary Holland Date: Monday, May 26, 2014 at 7:46 AM To: Linda Willson Subject: [New post] Make Way For Ducklings

    WordPress.com Mary Holland posted: “After having spent a month or so incubating her eggs, the mallard hen begins to hear her ducklings vocalizing from inside their eggs, roughly 24 hours before they start to hatch. She responds with quiet calls, and begins turning the eggs frequently. With”

    May 27, 2014 at 11:38 am

  10. Charming photo! Mother ducks will have to keep their babies warm tonight – brrr! 🙂

    May 28, 2014 at 2:23 pm

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