Thursday, May 22, 2014

Make Way for Ducklings!

By Erika Zambello

The ducklings have arrived in full force this month! They're hard to miss if you take a stroll down to the Asiatic Arboretum pond, in part because so many mallards have had eggs this year. 

"I have six or seven different moms out with their ducklings of varying sizes," says horticulturist Michelle Rawlins, who cares for the arboretum's waterfowl. With so many ducklings it's no surprise that they can be found both in and out of the water, walking in the grass as well as paddling beside their parents.

In addition to the mallard ducklings, there are also some hybrid ducklings, Rawlins tells me. Born of the male hybrid duck - with a bright white chest - and a mallard mother, these ducklings have a color pattern all their own. Instead of sporting the yellow and fuzzy feathers of their pure mallard counterparts, these ducklings are almost all black with a bright yellow chest, Rawlins says. Like all ducklings, they are completely adorable.

Photo by Sarah Reuning

With so many baby waterfowl in the gardens this spring, it is important to remember that they are still wild ducks. 

"We want to encourage you to see them and watch them, but not to handle them," Rawlins cautions. 

Also, young ducks do not eat the same food as adults, and while Duke Gardens prohibits feeding the ducks anything but the nutritious duck food sold in the Terrace Shop (50 cents per bag), do not be surprised if the young ducklings do not eat that, either. Their parents will make sure they're well fed.

Photo by Sarah Reuning

Spring is an amazing time to be in Duke Gardens. Not only are the flowers in full bloom and the weather warm, but the wildlife residents start and raise their families. Ducklings are not ducklings forever, so come check them out before they grow up completely!

 Photo by Sarah Reuning

Blogger and photographer Erika Zambello is a graduate student studying Ecosystem Science and Conservation at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.