Hello! Most of my posts take place around San Diego County, (Mostly Lake Murray) unless otherwise noted.
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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Down to 5 ducklings, 1 sick

Sadly, Mama lost two of her ducklings some time on Monday or Tuesday.  The more lanky black duckling and a regular yellow duckling, whom I've noticed is a little weaker and not as zippy than the others, was gone.  At first, everything seemed to be good with the remaining five.  But, then, I saw something strange.

At first, this one duckling seemed to get stuck in the rocks when the ducklings were there feeding.  Then, he started lagging behind the group, way behind, and swimming in circles, alone.  He was way far from the others, easy picking for a gull.

I've seen this behavior before in ducklings and other waterfowl, it's not good and a sign of illness or a neurological problem.  He did make it to shore and I tried to catch him, but when I did, he was suddenly "cured" and ran up to Mama.  I told him that if he could keep up with the group, he can stay and I won't try to catch him anymore.

While his siblings eagerly ran around looking for food, he just stood there with his tail tucked in, not eating as seen in the next photo (that's him on the left).  I thought I saw him drink some water.  He really wanted to be under his mama, though.  He also seemed to have trouble with his balance.

The other ducklings were extremely busy trying to find food.  These two seem to be best friends right now and have been hanging out together since they were a few days old.

Mama couldn't stay still or brood the sick duckling because this juvenile hawk was hanging out in the area, making her nervous.  The gulls were harassing him while he sat on the pole and eventually chased him off.  Mama kept quacking as if to say "Hawk! Hawk!" to her little ducklings:

Mama took her ducklings away and I did see the sick duckling try to stay under Mama as much as he could, but she kept moving.  Each time she did, he would go right back under her, but she didn't fully brood him.  However, that seemed to help as, afterward, he seemed better and was keeping up with everyone just fine.

Later, when the sun was out and warmer, I saw the family far away from that spot, the sick duckling was acting normally and swimming with the group.  I think he's in the middle of the group in this photo, possibly the one with his eyes closed:

Here are the two best friends again:

The sick duckling, again, swam away from the group and closer to me.  It was almost as if he was telling me that he's OK and I don't need to try to catch him anymore.

As they swam off, I couldn't really tell which one was the sick one.  I hope it was hypothermia and not something the other ducklings could catch or some kind of food poisoning.  I have a feeling, though, I won't see him again and Mama will, soon,  be down to 4 ducklings.  She will have lost half her brood, something which I've never seen happen to her before. If it was any other mother duck, I would just say, "oh well, that's nature and the life of ducklings."  But, this is Mama and she never loses more than one or two.

But, I have some good news!  The two ducklings hatched about 5 weeks ago, are still alive and doing well.  I can no longer tell which was the yellow one, but I think it is the one in back.  Both are still very small and appear to be females.

Big stretch!

Yellowcheeks seems to have lost her yellow cheeks and has gotten more round.  She seems to be a very proud mama.

Stretching again!  You can see how small they are compared to adult ducks.  But, they seem healthy.

We also have another baby coot:

And, it appears that the mama duck (mate to Snowy, the snowy mallard), who had eight ducklings about two months ago, had at least one survive, perhaps two or three, I'm not sure.  I keep forgetting to take photos.  They were hanging out with mom and dad this morning.  One has become a very large male duckling, about the size of his dad.  The other two seem more normal.

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