Three cameras are now online at the South nest. There are about 5 unhatched eggs. I hope none of the ducklings hatched late (too undeveloped and too weak to leave with the others) but that is possible today because eggs were added to this nest box by other ducks after incubation began for the rest. At least one of the two hooded merganser eggs has hatched: you can tell the hoodie ducklings apart from the wood ducks because hoodies have a bushy haircut and wood ducks have a black eye stripe through white on the side of their head.
Ducklings are hatching in the South nest box now: Monday May 29, 1:55pm CDT. They will jump Tuesday morning and once again I plan to have cameras in multiple places.
Nine ducklings went out into the world from the West nest box this morning at about 9:00 am. Cameras were active inside the nest box, looking at the nest from outside, and watching the creek. More details below.
The West nest duck family took an unusually long time to get started, the mother duck called her ducklings for several minutes before they responded. Once all 9 were out they went back into the ferns behind the nest box. A minute later the camera that was aimed at the creek seemed to show they were down in the water some distance away, but that was a brand new Mallard family that happened to be coming down the creek at the same time.
When the wood ducks went into the creek they were next to the Mallards and the two mother ducks had a brief flap-and-squawk battle; both were trying to protect their ducklings from a perceived danger. If you were watching the creek camera you saw it: the wood duck flapping and splashing and swimming fast in a circle right up to the creek camera and then circling back again to collect her ducklings. No harm done. A few minutes later we saw the wood duck family going upstream and then they could not be found again. It is not unusual for them to disappear like that; they often go up into tall grass and foliage along the creek bank to rest.
Ducklings will jump from the West nest box on Monday morning. There will be 3 live cameras:
- West – inside the nest box
- Outside – looking at the west nest box from outside
- Creek – this camera is down at water level downstream from the west nest. They duck family will be visible here after leaving the view of the other cameras … IF they go downstream – a 50/50 chance.
>> Other cameras will be offline temporarily to save upload bandwidth for these three.
>> While they are climbing and jumping, try the two-camera view:
What to expect:
In the morning the mother duck will typically leave the ducklings and go off alone to get some breakfast for a half hour or hour. When she returns they usually all settle in for a while. The ducklings alternate between lots of practice jumping and climbing activity, and resting. When the duck decides it might be time to go she will jump up into the doorway and stay there for a long time, typically many minutes. She’s watching for anything that might harm the ducklings. Usually the first time she will decide it’s not quite right and drop back into the nest box to rest again. Once in a while she will go after the first look-around, but typically she will repeat this several times … while we wait.
But at some point she will decide it’s time to go. The earliest this has occurred here is 7:00 AM CDT, the latest was 2:00 PM, and typically it’s around 8:00 or 9:00. She’ll drop down below the nest box and start a special pulsing call that activates the ducklings. They peep loudly and jump and climb up to the door, and jump out. She keeps calling as long as she still hears peeping from the nest. Finally she’ll lead her ducklings down to the water and they swim off. They never return to the nest; they stay there for only their first night.
A duck does not feed her ducklings; she takes them to where food can be found and they feed themselves. She shelters them at night hiding in tall grass or brush near the water. She will stay with her ducklings for about 2 months.
Hatching has started in the West nest. At 6:40 this morning the duck was away and no ducklings were there; just lots of downy feathers. 2 hours later one was visible when she moved. They will jump from the nest box tomorrow morning. I will have an outdoor camera set up so you can watch both inside and outside the nest at the same time.
I expect we’ll see ducklings in the West nest box tomorrow, perhaps after hatching tonight, or perhaps hatching sometime tomorrow. Their Jump Day will probably be Monday morning. (Incidentally, my predictions are wrong about a third of the time.)
All 9 eggs in the West nest box are now pipped that is, they have been broken by the duckling inside. The duckling does that to let in air: it starts to breathe and makes tiny peeping sounds before it hatches. When pipping starts, the egg at first looks like the one at the bottom right in the photo below, then there is usually a day or so when nothing changes before the hatching process begins. However, as you can see, most are more broken than that.
To get out of the egg, the duckling pecks while slowly rotating itself inside the egg (many hours) by pushing with wings and feet, until it has been broken all around and is in two pieces.
Another sign that hatching will happen soon: the mother is making soft clucking sounds while in the nest. She does that when she hears the ducklings peeping inside the eggs. A duckling’s sounds from inside the egg are too quiet for the camera’s microphone to pick up, but last year I recorded it using my phone. Here’s a link to that post, from 2022.
In the South nest, two of the eggs have slight breaks on the ends (harmless) but the ducklings pip the eggs on the side, not the end, and the others eggs are still smooth and unbroken. That nest is due to hatch any day soon, but the West nest looks like it will be first.
As noted before, the East nest is due in about a week.