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The Perils Of Being A Duckling

Recently I encountered a single Common Goldeneye duckling frantically peeping as it swam around and around a pond with no other ducks or ducklings in sight. The gray-brown color of its eyes and the remains of an egg tooth at the tip of its bill indicated that it had hatched very recently. Because it couldn’t fly (it takes 50-70 days for most ducklings to attain flight status) nor swim fast enough to escape predators (such as largemouth bass, northern pike and other big fish, bullfrogs, snakes, snapping turtles, foxes, mink, raccoons, hawks, owls, gulls, crows and herons), it was extremely vulnerable. 

In addition to predation, weather conditions threaten duckling survival.  While their fuzzy down feathers are an excellent source of natural insulation in dry weather, they are of little value when wet. In addition, ducklings also lack the thermal protection of adult contour feathers. Cold, rainy, and windy conditions can lead to death from exposure (hypothermia) and may reduce food availability.

There was no obvious explanation for why this duckling was not in the company of its mother and siblings.  One can only hope that they were reunited in short order, as there is a bit more safety in numbers. Hopefully the fortitude it took for this youngster to leap from its nest cavity to the water below will serve it well in the days to come.

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6 responses

  1. Alice

    I sure hope the duckling is safe! What a cutie!

    June 11, 2021 at 8:20 am

  2. Poor little thing.

    June 11, 2021 at 11:55 am

  3. Alice

    ….and you probably, having maternal instincts, wanted to scoop up this little fluff-ball & take it home….but I know that would not be a good idea.

    June 11, 2021 at 4:50 pm

  4. Martha

    Mary, I have no idea if you can help with this mystery.  My friend has Oriental poppies in her garden and we have found several spent flower pods nipped off.  One was on the ground; the others are not around.  I took a picture of a damaged stem, not cut off, and another stem cut off, which plant is now covered in blueberry netting to try to save the other pods.  She wants the seeds.  I have no idea which animal is doing this.  Internet searches don’t come up with this particular problem, and other poppy discussions mention rabbits, starlings and deer.    These heads are probably 25-28″ or so off the ground.

    Thank you.  Martha

    June 11, 2021 at 6:21 pm

  5. Martha

    Whoops, took the pictures off to make them smaller for email, then forgot to attach them.  Here they are now.


    June 11, 2021 at 6:22 pm

  6. Was there any known help outcome for this poor little chick?! Really does look distraught and lonely! 😦 Can someone go back there and check?!

    June 12, 2021 at 10:01 pm

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