Mothers Day Duck Drama

baby duckling

Little Gus

Every year around Mother’s Day the ducks in our neighborhood bring their babies for their first swim to our little pond. It is always exciting to see the ducks as it is a sure sign that spring has arrived and that the cycle of life has begun. So far this year we witnessed three families. Our theory is that the mother ducks bring their little ones to our pond to ease them in to their new life, before taking them to the creek which flows near by. A year ago, on Mother’s Day a duck had left one of her babies behind. We observed the tiny duckling for a while, hoping his family would return. After some time had passed we realized that his family was not coming back. A ducklings life is full of perils, and often short-lived. The year before we observed a duck hen with more than 11 ducklings, it was quiet a sight. But over the course of the next few days she lost most of her babies and at the end she was only left with three. We have a lot of predators around our neighborhood, including an otter, some foxes, raccoons, hawks, and even bull-frogs. Knowing that the little duck wouldn’t stand a chance on his own, we decided to capture him. Our daughter named the duckling Gus. After calming little Gus down we all proceeded to track down the rest of Gus’s family, which we figured had to be nearby at the creek. After a short while we did find the hen in the creek and released little Gus to be reunited with his family. But mom would not take Gus back. We watched her from a safe distance for over an hour. Gus desperately swam up and down the creek, and got really close to his mom and siblings, but they just ignored him, in fact mother duck would move away, on Mother’s Day of all days! The irony of this was not lost.
duck family

One of this year's duck family leaving for the creek

After the duck family had left without Gus we decided to recapture him. Gus did o.k that afternoon, he did not seem scared, would eat a little and would sleep in Marcel’s hand. He even followed us around. We warned the kids that he did not have much of a chance of survival, that there was most likely a good reason his mother had abandoned him, but there is always hope.  Since we have raised little chicks the year before, we set up a little cage for Gus in our downstairs bathroom, that also serves as an incubator. To our pleasant surprise Gus survived that night and seemed to be doing really well. There is, unfortunately, no happy ending to this story.  Just a few hours later Gus had suddenly fallen ill, and his condition was rapidly deteriorating. Gus died peacefully cuddled up in Marcel’s hand that day. Even though we were mentally prepared for this, it still touched us deeply. As we see it, we had the privilege to be Gus’s Mom for one day and a privilege it was.

Leave a reply