There was a time when a Mallard duck could place her nest pretty much anywhere she chose. Ducklings are very mobile just a few hours after hatching, so even if the nest was far from water the mother duck could simply march her brood overland to reach it. This is no longer the case. Nowadays a duck that places her nest even a few hundred feet from a water source will likely have to run a gauntlet of fences, buildings, sidewalks, roads and myriad other human-created obstacles. And that is exactly what happens every spring and summer. The world the ducks live in has changed, but the ducks have not.
On June 19, a female Mallard in Redmond was walking her brood of eight ducklings from the nest to the water. She was heading in the direction of the Sammamish Slough, but she had to cross a very busy road to get there. The entire family's journey was cut short when a car plowed through their little procession. Mom and two babies were injured, and the other six ducklings ran about in a panic. A concerned motorist that witnessed the incident collected the mother duck and the two injured babies and then successfully rounded up the rest of the family. She brought them to PAWS for care.
Fortunately, the mother duck had suffered only minor injuries when she was struck by the car. Trauma from the impact caused some congestion in her lungs, but she recovered quickly over the course of a few days. The two injured ducklings fared worse. One did not survive, and the other is still recovering in our care as of this writing.
On June 27, PAWS Wildlife Rehabilitation Manager Emily Meredith and I returned the mother Mallard and her six uninjured ducklings to the wild. They were reluctant to exit their transport carrier at first, but as soon as mom decided to head for the water, her young quickly followed.
Once everyone was in the water, the babies stuck to their mother like glue. They swam off as a single unit and were later seen foraging together in the shallows.