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Wild Mallard Duck Nesting in Garden (1 Viewer)


Fledgling Birder
Back on 30 April we were surprised to see three mallard ducks (two drakes & a hen) in our garden (we don't have a pond) this was a first for us. We live next to an urban nature reserve so we have seen ducks there and flying over, but never in our garden. We were even more surprised when the female hopped up into our raised planter and laid an egg! She returned each morning for a further 9 days, sometimes with the drakes and sometimes not and continued to lay an egg each day.

On 9 May we believe she started the 28 day incubation period, she started to pluck down feathers making a brood patch and continuously sat on the nest.

She has settled into a routine of leaving the nest around dawn and dusk to feed returning approximately an hour later. Sometimes she returns to the street in front of our house with the two drakes before she flies into the garden alone to return to the nest.

The nest location is only a few metres from our kitchen windows so we have an excellent view of what's been happening (we avoid standing at the windows but view her with binos or a long lens camera). During the laying process (when she was absent from our garden) we moved our bins and other items we need regular access to out of the back garden (the nest site is also not far from our garden gate!)

After buying some duck pellets, we have decided to not feed her. We are concerned about attracting other birds or rats to the garden that may cause her distress. There is water available to her.

I've done quite a bit of searching on line to find out what to expect. However, most advice/information is about domestic ducks.

Nature needs to be left to take its course and we are just observers in this, but I wish I could just understand a bit more about what's happening and if things are 'normal'. For example, this morning she left the nest for two and a half hours... everything I've read says ducks only leave the nest for very short periods up to an hour. Again, I know I have no control over this, but I want to know if that is normal or whether it might have impeded the incubation process. I appreciated time will tell if it has or not, but if anyone has spent time observing wild ducks during the incubation period could let me know what they have seen and what is normal I would be REALLY grateful.


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Leaving the nest for quite long periods is not uncommon, although 2 and a half hours is at the upper end, I'd say. The key is the weather. If it's not too cold and not raining heavily then it's not going to be a problem.

Nesting like this is also not that unusual - in fact a friend in Leigh in Surrey has exactly the same phenomenon at the moment.

When they hatch is when she is going to need your assistance most. Getting from the nest to some open water will be when they are at most risk. She will try to take the most direct route possible - across main roads often. When I worked at Heathrow we had one march across the A30 with 8 ducklings and I had to call out security to close the road until we got them across.

Thanks Mick - I have arranged to work from home the week they are due to hatch so I can help them get out of our garden and safely to wherever she's going to take them. In fact this weekend we're going to try to work out where she goes to meet the drakes that follow her back to our street. After she leaves the nest we're going to take a walk in the nature reserve around the ponds to see if we can spot her. If successful I can try to work out what route she might take and plan how I can assist. Fortunately there are no main roads between us and the nature reserve and I've briefed our neighbours on why they have been seeing ducks in our street.

The two and a half hours seemed a long time to me - I was starting to get worried as she usually only leaves for an hour at a time. The nest is high off the ground, sheltered and the temperature was around 7 degrees this morning so I'm hoping all the down in the nest kept them snug. I just have to be patient and wait & see.

Thanks for taking the time to reply - Liz
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