Mallard sitting on a nest at a Home Depot Garden Centre.
It is very common for Mallard Ducks to nest in Saskatchewan’s urban areas and they are frequently found nesting in people’s back yards. A duck’s nests consist of a shallow depression lined with grass, down and twigs.
Normal nesting behaviour is as follows:
- The female will lay 1 egg/day for 12 – 15 days.
- She does not incubate the eggs until all are laid. This ensures that they will all hatch within a few hours of each other.
- Hatching takes approx. 25 – 30 days after she starts to incubate them.
- During the laying period the duck will only visit the nest for about one hour each day to lay an egg and work on the nest.
- After incubation starts she will leave the nest a couple of times a day for about 1 hour each time to feed – usually in the morning and afternoon.
- She knows where the water is and after the ducklings hatch she will lead the them to water.
- The journey to water can be dangerous, if possible, keep your distance and walk along quietly to keep people and pets from disturbing the family. If it will be too dangerous, call the WRSOS hotline in advance so we can have a plan in place to help when the time comes.
- It is normal for one or two eggs to not hatch and they can be disposed of in the garbage – carefully, they may be rotten!
The duck can become accustomed to your movements in the yard and, as long as a person moves quietly and calmly, it is often possible to continue working in the yard while she nests. Monitoring her habits will allow you to predict when it would be best to mow. This offers a great opportunity to watch nature progress. Pets and children should be kept away from the nest. It might be possible to fence off the nest area to keep it safe. If you do not want the nest in your yard, the Ministry of the Environment recommends removing it BEFORE she begins incubating the eggs. It is common for Mallards to nest in the same area year after year if the nest is successful. This can be prevented by putting up deterrents early in the spring to keep her away.
The long walk to water can be a difficult journey for the ducklings. Occasionally the mother can be frightened off but, she will usually return as soon as things quieten down. If you find several ducklings it is possible this has occurred and she will return. Monitor them from a distance.
Ducks cannot count and occasionally lose a couple of slower ducklings in their journey. If you find a single or small number of ducklings, this may have occurred. First quickly check the neighbourhood to see if you can find the rest of the family and possibly reunite the lost ducklings. If no mother and siblings can be found, collect the duckling, put it in a box and contact the WRSOS hotline at 306.242.7177. Do not put the duckling in water. They are not waterproof at this age and rely on the mothers oils to protect them. They get hypothermic and die very quickly from exposure. They should be kept warm and quiet. WRSOS has developed a “Duck Squad” to deal with the high number of duck nest and duckling calls we receive each year. While ducks will not knowingly take fosters, our duck squad has been very successful at introducing ducklings of a similar age into families when the mother is unaware of the introduction