Bringing Up Baby; Mallard Style

picture 031 300x200 Bringing Up Baby; Mallard Style

One of the areas I manage is a complex that features a large enclosed courtyard, with lush vegetation, and a small pond with a waterfall.  Last summer, a pregnant Mallard came to scope out the courtyard with her mate only a few weeks after the construction was finished.  She and her mate would sit on tree mounds, and in garden beds on one side of the courtyard or the other, to watch the people pass by, and search the bushes for likely nesting places.  Regardless of the constant human traffic through this area, she latched on to this spot as the perfect location for her family. After several weeks of her frequent visitations, she disappeared for a time, only to reappear with babies in tow. The entire summer, she and her ducklings camped out “poolside,” by the tiny water feature, awaiting the free Saltines and cracked corn that come with Condo living for puddle ducks.  All fall and winter, the apartment dwellers where she had taken up residence were placing wagers on the likelihood that she would return, and hoping to see her again.

picture 078 300x200 Bringing Up Baby; Mallard Style

This year, “Lil’ Momma”, as we call her, hatched 12 babies, so she has been incredibly busy watching overall of them, as they investigate their world in twelve different directions at once. It seems like they have designated “exploration time” with Lil’ Momma, as well as a special time for sunbathing, and swimming lessons.  Momma keeps them in line, and on target with each new activity, and with only one or two quiet peeps from her, everyone moving as one unit toward the next activity with no questions asked.

Initially the tiny pond they were paddling around was amply large to teach ducklings how to swim, and properly dabble at the water’s edge.  I had to wonder how the family would continue to fit in the pond, as the duckling grew in size.  Last year’s ducklings stayed through late July, and never attempted flight. I ended up personally assisting several of them on their way to a larger pond on the premises, where I hoped that they would learn to fly, and socialize with the other water birds.  The photo at right was taken about two months ago of Lil’ Momma, and her kids.  Right now, the Mother duck is still very protective of them, even though they have grown to a size approximate to hers! As you can see in the picture below, they are currently packed in the pond like sardines for their “All Swim” sessions!

img 0241 300x225 Bringing Up Baby; Mallard Style

I’m not sure how much longer I’ll let them be where they are, since the young ducks don’t have room in the enclosed courtyard to learn to fly, and with the constant supply of food handed over to them, are not learning to fend for themselves.  Thursday of last week, I went into the courtyard to replenish the bowl of corn for them, and discovered that one of Lil’ Momma’s daughters from last year had just hatched her own brood in the courtyard, and had her own duckling paddling around the pond.

Watching the full-sized ducklings bum crackers off the passers by, and the day old “newbies” circle their protective, young mother in the pond, I’m reminded of a Shel Silverstein poem entitled “Crowded Tub!”