May 10 2013

Mothers’ Work

Mallard with ducklings (photo from Wikimedia Commons)

We tend to think that birds with precocial chicks have an easier time as parents than those whose nestlings are naked and blind at birth, but this isn’t necessarily so.

Ducklings can walk, swim and feed themselves shortly after they hatch but their mobility is problematic.  They have no idea where to find food nor how to stay safe.  All they know is “Stay with Mom!”

Mother leads them to feeding areas and shows them what to taste.  The ducklings peck in the vicinity until they find good food.

Her hardest responsibility is protecting them from danger.  Baby ducklings are tasty morsels for raptors, minks, cats, dogs, large fish and snapping turtles.  If you watch a mallard family day to day you’ll notice the number of ducklings decreases over time.  Mom does her best but danger lurks.

This mother mallard has had pretty good success so far.  Out of 8 to 13 eggs she still has six chicks.

Until they can fly she has mothers’ work to do.

 

(photo from Wikimedia Commons. Click on the image to see the original. Today’s Tenth Page is inspired by page 483 of Ornithology by Frank B. Gill.)

One response so far

One Response to “Mothers’ Work”

  1. Mary Ann Pikeon 13 May 2013 at 12:25 pm

    I was in Erie this weekend for my daughter’s graduation. We went to the zoo since she hasn’t had time to go there while she was studying. There is a small pond in the middle of the zoo where there are two black swans, and of course, ducks. The male black swan followed my daughter around the edge of the pool staring at her…she was wearing a black hoodie and has dyed red hair, so we weren’t sure if he was threatening her or wanted her to join his harem!

    One of the female mallards had 4 very small chicks swimming with her…couldn’t have been too old. At one point she left the pond to move to the flower bed on the other side of the sidewalk…three of the chicks were right behind her, but it took the 4th one a while to get out and make his way over to the rest of the family. It was starting to rain, and momma duck stood under a bush with all of the babies under her wings for protection.

    As we took shelter from the lightning in a small gazebo a female mallard walked quickly by, loudly quacking as a juvenile male ran behind her. She got up on the sidewalk and stood there loudly quacking the entire time until the juvenile gave up trying to jump out of the flower bed onto the side walk above. Not sure if he was one of her offspring from last year and she was telling him to grow up, or if he was a suitor and she was saying “you’re too young for me, go play with your friends.”

    Lots of interesting wildlife at the zoo.

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