14 ducklings + 2

Ducklings in the East nest box jumped yesterday morning. Incubation was less than perfect as I’ve written in previous posts, with some eggs left in corners that were very cold whenever I checked. I expected there would be some late ducklings, and that did occur.

Wood duck ducklings need about 20 to 24 hours to develop enough strength to climb out, follow their mother, and swim. If a duckling hatches many hours after the others it is not developed enough to leave but the mother duck can’t wait. Her ducklings need to eat and her instinct is driven by the energy level of the group. When that is right she calls for them to leave.

In some cases a duckling is very late, just hatching when the family leaves and in a few cases a duckling will hatch after they’ve left. Here’s a video I made in 2021 called “Little Woodie’s First Day” about a very late duckling that hatched all alone during a warm night. That duckling lived; the video has a happy ending! 

14 wood duck ducklings jumped from East nest box Sunday morning during a long 8 minutes (often it’s much quicker), leaving two that were noticeably smaller and weaker still trying to get out, but they couldn’t climb up to the door.

The door is about 10 inches up in the nest box. It could be 10 feet up for a wild nest in a hollow tree. A wood duck requires enough depth between the door and the ducklings so a predator (e.g. raccoon) can’t reach the ducklings. It will not use a nest that has a door that is too low.

The two in the nest box continued peeping which kept the mother (with her 14 little ones) nearby, still calling for them. They tried again and again but they just couldn’t do it: one hop up was all the older one could accomplish before its little legs gave out and it dropped back down. Even if it had gotten out it would not have been able to keep up. The littlest one stopped trying first, then after many minutes, the older one too. Momma duck and her family left.

Six eggs did not hatch: five wood duck eggs and one hooded merganser egg.

I taped a piece of window screen over the nest box door partly to keep the two little ducklings in and safe and partly to keep other curious ducks out. I gave the two some hours to rest and get stronger after working so hard.

Ducklings absorb egg yolk into their bodies – it’s high-powered nourishment that lasts for 2 or 3 days. They grow significantly in both size and strength in their first 20 hours.

Then, in the early afternoon …

… we opened the nest box door. The older one was “up”, the younger one hiding and resting.

We gently moved them into a comfy box …

… and took them to their new, temporary home: the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Roseville MN.

Their chance for survival is probably higher than their siblings. They’ll be fed and protected until they are ready to go back into the wild … to someday raise ducklings of their own.

What happened to the robins?

The robin’s nest was empty on Sunday morning May 26th. The recordings made by the nest camera revealed what had happened.

May 20th – A video camera is streaming and recording activity at a robin’s nest in the very small tree on the left.

May 20th – The robin’s nest has 3 eggs. This picture was taken by holding a phone camera above the nest. The video camera couldn’t be positioned that high because of tree branches.

May 25th – After about 12 days of incubation the eggs are hatching.

May 25th 3:45 PM – A parent discards an empty eggshell that had a little robin inside only minutes ago.

May 25th 6:30 PM – Two chicks have hatched. The wind vibrated the nest which made them think maybe a parent bird was there, so they’re asking for food.

May 25th 6:35 PM – A parent delivers a tiny grub for a tiny chick.

May 26th 4:40AM – Later that night – tiny robins are not the only thing that has hatched lately: LOTS of mosquitos too. The robin has its head tucked in and the bugs have a hard time getting through the feathers.

May 26th 4:50AM – Something shakes the little tree and wakes up the robin. The mosquitos seize the opportunity.

May 26th 4:50AM – A few seconds later the tree shakes again and the robin flies away into the dark night, chirping its loud alarm call. The camera isn’t fast enough to stop the motion: the blur is the robin’s wing feathers on a down-stroke. Its body is already out of the picture.

May 26th 4:51AM – A few seconds later a marauder appears. (Earlier I considered adding a raccoon barrier to the tree but didn’t. Now I wish I had – it might have stopped the cat.)

May 26th 4:51AM – The cat has a little robin. Feral cats and domestic cats that are allowed to roam outdoors are really hard on wildlife.

May 26th 4:57AM – The cat returns again. It took all three: two chicks and perhaps the third one too if it had hatched, or otherwise the egg. The cat climbed up and turned its back to the camera so it wasn’t clear, but in any case the nest was emptied. This pair of robins will try again somewhere else.

“An American Robin can produce three successful broods in one year. On average, though, only 40 percent of nests successfully produce young. Only 25 percent of those fledged young survive to November. From that point on, about half of the robins alive in any year will make it to the next. Despite the fact that a lucky robin can live to be 14 years old, the entire population turns over on average every six years.”

Quote from Cornell Labs “All About Birds” https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Robin/

7+ Wood ducks leaving Sunday AM

It’s hard to count busy ducklings mixed with sleepy ones underneath, but watching the playback I did clearly see at least 7. I also saw the one hooded merganser egg that’s in the nest: it has not hatched (yet).

That’s not many given that she has 22 eggs but is kind of what I expected. As I’ve mentioned, this mom duck hasn’t exhibited the typical incubating skill; perhaps this is her first year. Good news: if any do hatch late and are too weak to go tomorrow morning with the rest, I can take them to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center; they are accepting wild ducklings.

Three cameras are online and I hope you can join the text chat session too. You’ll find that via the cameras page after I activate the chat early on Sunday. (Reload/refresh your screen if you don’t see it.)

Here’s a page about what to expect on Jump Day.

As always, use the “View Live Cameras” button at birdsgv.com to watch.

East nest box hatching now

Ducklings are visible in the East nest. Looking at playback, the first one appeared about 9:00 CDT. They will jump from the nest box tomorrow (Sunday) morning.

I plan to have 3 cameras online tomorrow: inside, outside the nestbox, and down in the creek just above water level. Also the chat service (text, not voice) will be active tomorrow so we can enjoy comments and Q&A.

For all of these, use the “Live Cameras” button at the birdsgv.com web site.

Merganser family on its way

Yesterday at 10:35 the hooded merganser called her ducklings and they quickly left their nest box … except for one. The last duckling couldn’t find the door and kept jumping up against the walls while the rest went downstream. (They go for the light, but with bright light coming in through the opening the other walls can look bright too, especially in a human-built nest box made with flat boards.) The left-behind duckling kept peeping loudly (good job!) and momma duck then brought her entourage back just as the last one finally found the door … and it tumbled down the bank to join the others. We got some footage of this event so a new video is obviously mandatory, coming soon.

There weren’t many people on the chat that I set up at the last minute, but it did work quite well for Q&A and comments. I’ll set it up again (with a better link for joining) for the East nest jump day, also coming soon.

When I checked the East nest yesterday evening none of the eggs were pipped (slightly broken) yet so hatching is still not imminent. This duck has struggled to manage the nest with eggs left uncovered in corners and not much of a down blanket. Whenever I’ve checked, many eggs have been toasty warm but some have been overnight-temperature cold. That may explain the longer-than-expected incubation time.

The hooded merganser led her ducklings away yesterday.
One of them is a wood duck: dark eye stripe and no “bushy haircut”.
I got it wrong when trying to count rapidly moving ducklings in the nest box yesterday.
The actual total was 11 hooded mergansers and 1 wood duck.

For more about wood duck and hooded merganser blended families, use the “Ducks Info” button on the birdsgv.com web site (scroll down to find it) then choose the “Eggs & Dumping” topic in the heading.