Wild Mallard Nest in Residential Backyard

vmoreno44(CA)April 2, 2011

We live in a S.California residential area. There is a nearby home where the homeowner has been called, "Duck Lady" due to the apparent home she has made in her backyard for wild ducks. We've lived here 21 years and although we've had mallards fly over our home and occasionally land in our pool, we've never had a nest in our yard. Until now.

Two days ago, on March 31st, I found it. I was wondering why she seemed to be in our yard more than usual, sometimes with another duck (I realize now it's Papa). She kept coming out from under a plant we have, which is actually a topiary of an airplane, with the plant inside having grown outside the wire and in need of a trim. So I thought, "Hmmmm, I wonder if she's made a nest for herself there"...

I took a look and about died...there were 6 beautiful ecru colored eggs in a nest!

Filtered sun was shining on it through the leaves of it's shelter and it looked absolutely angelic. I felt immediately blessed!

It is in what would seem a very logical place, 4 feet from our swimming pool, 8 feet from an in-ground spa and in the very center of our yard. Most predators threatening the eggs (rats, possums) would enter the yard from the walls. This is where I have the most problem with my vegetables being eaten - near the perimeter of our yard, not in the middle. But, here's the kicker - we have a Golden Retriever. Our dog is interested in the nest, but only slightly. If she gets too close, Mama has a few words with her and she backs off. She has definitely become used to the ducks in our yard. They seem to be co-habitating nicely for now. Some bird dog, I know. :)

I have a few concerns, which is why I came here for help - and thank you very much for any advice anyone can offer. We don't plan to do much of anything until they hatch. Mama seems to have a handle on things.

My question is about when they might hatch. I have read the gestation period is about 28 days. My problem is that I do NOT want to miss these babies hatching. We have an 11 yr old son who is loving this - I mean, WHAT A LIFE EXPERIENCE!!! I cannot believe we've been given this awesome opportunity. BUT - we need to go to Washington State during his Easter break to research his state report for 5th grade. Naturally, the school break falls right smack dab at the 28 day mark. So, I really would like to predict as much as possible WHEN these eggs might hatch, since we can go at either the beginning or end of his 10 day break.

When do I start counting the 28 days? There were 6 eggs 2 days ago; now there are 9. So, the eggs are arriving on different days, does that mean the 28 days will vary with each egg - and the hatching may take a week? Or, do I start counting 28 days from the first day of the last eggs laid? I'm new at this!!

I will also have questions as this story progresses, I'm sure...like how/when to relocate them, but for now, I'm really concerned about when they might hatch.

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Sorry about the large picture. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like I can edit the post, or delete it and start over! Shoulda used the test feature for html...again...my apologies!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2011 at 4:53PM
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No, they'll hatch all within a day or two of each other, if they are like most other birds. They do not sit them to incubate until their clutch is the size they want it and when it is, they'll start sitting and that is when you start counting the incubation time.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2011 at 8:33PM
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Ok, thank you. This helps. I need to reschedule our trip then. She's sitting on them full time now, putting around Apr 29 as hatching day. I'm so glad my son will be off school then. Thanks again!

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 4:22PM
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Well, they hatched! All 9 of them. They are absolutely adorable. Day 1 Mama gave them swimming, diving, and hopping-out-of-the-pool lessons. They had trouble with getting out of the pool, not wanting to use the pool mat/ramp we'd arranged. We raised the water level which helped, but let me tell you, we were entertained all day long with these little guys. Mama showed them what she wanted them to do, hopping out of the water. Then they looked at her like, "No way can we do that!". Over and over, she hopped out, then back in.

About an hour after she first showed them, the first little guy made it out. She took him to the grass 6' away for a reward of bugs (I think). Then back in the water, back out, back in, back out. Finally, 8 of the 9 had made it. The last little one just could not make it. He tried and tried while Mama and siblings took up vigil at poolside, waiting patiently. He'd swim along the edge a foot or so, then try to hop out, fall back in, swim a few inches, try again, fall again, on and on. They just sat down and watched him. (We couldn't help bc if we tried, all of them went back in the water.)

After about 20 min, one of the siblings plopped back in and swam right at his tail, literally nudging him along. As he tried to get up, she pushed him from the water!! It was SOOOO CUTE how they take care of eachother. I took hours of video. Ultimately, she hopped back out and left him still trying. Then, he did eventually make it and we all cheered him!

By Day 2, they are all semi-experts, hopping in and out on their own, even if Mama leaves them alone in the yard for a while. I'm very wary of predators though...

We've put an awning over the middle of our pool and extending onto the concrete. She slept on the concrete, next to the pool, under the awning last night, w/ the 9 kids tucked under her wings...soo adorable.

We're thinking of rigging an enclosed cage they can sleep in at night - around 8x4'. Any advice anyone can offer is appreciated. Thank you!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2011 at 6:30PM
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Just wanted to update this post:

Our 9 ducklings are 55 days old. What an adventure this has been! We have had so much fun watching them grow, and my son has been journaling almost daily (had to sort of bribe him for that, but once he started, he kind of got into it - and someday I think his notes may be useful...)

Sample entries:

Today the ducklings did a new morning exercise. This morning exersize was flapping their very tiny wings and running up the concrete by the pool.

I was watching the ducklings up close today and when I stood up, as usual the ducklings ran away except for one. That duckling fell on it's back and tried to get up. It couldn't because its legs and wings didn't help. So the duckling started peeping very loudly. Then it finally rolled over and ran away.

Today I got home from Outdoor Ed. I can see a big difference in the ducklings. When you look at one, you almost think you are looking at the mama since they're sooo big.


For the last several weeks, we've been treated to 2 daily water shows, one in mid-morning and one in mid-afternoon. During these shows, they all simultaneously go into rapid-swim mode where they actually walk on water, then switch to rapid-dive mode where they swim straight to the bottom of the pool and hover around down there for a 5-10 seconds before surfacing w/ a plop. To see all 9 do this at once is hysterical.

They are practicing flying several times a day and it's so cute. They will flap their wings while sort of galloping along. Some are getting about an inch of air, but they have to really work for it. Mama still leaves a few times each day, and as always, they don't like it. They quack (and they're much louder than they used to be, unfortunately) when she's gone...but she always comes back within a few minutes of leaving.

It has been, and is, a LOT of work. I don't ever want to do this again! That said, I'm not sorry they chose our home because it's been such a learning experience - I just don't want to go through it again. If I see any of them in our yard once this group has migrated, I will NOT encourage them to hang around (whereas before I just let them visit since it was always a short visit).

I am reducing their food now, in an effort to have them forage more...which they are doing. I have almost no flowers left in my backyard and there is MUD where there never was before! We also haven't been able to use our pool since they were born, so we are really looking forward to their departure (as much as we will miss those daily shows).

Once I know they can fly, I will not put food out for them, but for now, I feel the ducklings still need some since they can't fly. I'm hopeful though that if there is less and less, they will fly sooner.

Does anyone have any experience with mallard ducklings learning to fly? I had thought they could fly between 50-60 days, but they don't look like they'll be taking off within the next few days, so mine may be here longer. I'm really ready for them to see the world though, so any advice is appreciated.

A few pictures of the last 8 weeks:

How they slept the first night:

A family outing:

They liked to hang out on the wall between the jacuzzi and cool dip:

You can see how they're growing:

Today, they're all the same size!

    Bookmark   June 17, 2011 at 2:04PM
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One flew over the 6-ft wall today for a few minutes, along w/ Mama. Then flew back a few min. later! Big day. I don't think it will be long until they're all gone.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 11:18PM
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Nice post. Thanks for sharing a happy duck story.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2011 at 11:58PM
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They have all been gone for about a week now. Our yard is back to normal (minus a few flowers) and the pool looks crystal clear again. There is no indication we raised a family of 10 ducks here for two months. No more daily water shows :( and no more cleaning up after them :)!!

It was an amazing experience. Once in a lifetime (don't want to do it ever again). Glad we did it, documented it and learned from it. Nature is just so awesome!

    Bookmark   July 3, 2011 at 11:57PM
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I also have wild ducklings (12!) in my pool. My question is, can they learn to fly without their mother to show them? She quit coming around about a week ago. The ducklings are about 50 days old.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 2:12PM
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I have 14 ducklings that made our pool their home. They are all flying now. My question us, did any of your ducks come back in following years? My ducklings have not left yet. They are 55 days old. They leave with momma duck every other day all day but always come back at the end of the day. Will they leave for good and will they return every year? It has been the most amazing and wonderful experience. I will be sad when they are gone. Papa duck hasn't been seen in several days now. Thanks!!

    Bookmark   June 19, 2014 at 5:32AM
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