Ducklings in the Wetlands

Top Photo: Mallard duck with two of her six ducklings.

Ranger Molly informed me she saw a mallard duck and six ducklings in our wetlands over the weekend. On my next trip into the wetlands, I spotted the family in the swamp across from the Main Wetlands Overlook.

Six mallard ducklings.

A pair of mallards had been hanging around the wetlands the entire spring, had disappeared for a while early on, but had returned. Sometime later in the season they had again gone off and hadn’t been seen for some time, until last week.

I’m assuming the first time they disappeared was to nest, the female incubating the eggs in some unknown location around our wetlands. I assume again, that the nest had failed as when they returned, they were alone, no ducklings.

This time, however, the female showed up with six little ducklings in tow. But, by Tuesday of this week week (6/15) there were only 2 ducklings. By Saturday, there was one.

Female with 2 ducklings (Tuesday, 6/15).
Four days later there was one duckling left (Saturday, 6/19).

It’s difficult to say what has happened to the ducklings, except that they were most likely preyed upon. Gray fox, raccoon, mink, feral cats, red-shouldered hawk, barred owl, snapping turtle, all are likely candidates.

According to an article on Ducks Unlimited’s web site, mortality among ducklings varies greatly from less than 10% to as much as 70% in the 50-70 days it takes them to reach flight age. The mortality rate lessens as the ducklings age. The survival rate is nine times higher as the ducklings pass seven days. The first week is the most critical.

Last year, a female mallard (same duck?) appeared in the wetlands leading 14 ducklings. I didn’t record any daily losses in this group due to my not being on site because of Covid restrictions. I don’t know what happened to the brood. Apparently, and I’m once again assuming quite a bit here, the parents thought this place safe enough to try again, so they must have been successful.

Last year’s brood was 14, count ’em.

Good luck to the mallard and her last remaining duckling.

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