Houston, We Have Babies– April 8, 2013
Look what I found. Momma Mallard with her babies. What a fun surprise when the little brood came swimming out of the marshy area with proud momma in the lead. It is a story that began back in February, and while this is an exciting chapter, the drama has just begun. Danger lurks everywhere for the little guys.
I learn from Ducks Unlimited that it takes 50-70 days for the ducklings to attain flight status. Brood survival during that time can range from as low as 10 percent to as high as 70. The young ducklings are subject to predation, adverse weather, starvation, disease and parasites. Hawks, owls, gulls, herons and even crows would enjoy the tiny, juicy tidbit. The ducklings can also fall prey to large fish, reptiles, and mammals such as foxes and raccoons, though none of those are not a threat here on urban Clear Lake. Feral cats, maybe.
Ducks Unlimited goes on to say the ducklings are also sensitive to weather extremes. We have another “cold front” due in two days, though I don’t think it is to be as chilly as a couple of days ago. Still, cold, rainy, and windy conditions can lead to death from exposure (hypothermia). Their fuzzy down feathers provides little insulation when wet, and they lack the additional thermal support of adult contour feathers.