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A dozen Mallard ducklings and their parents were briefly in residence in this local salt water swimming pool.

In early March, a pair of Mallard ducks, a male and female, began visiting our pool. This often happens in the spring, so we didn’t think much of it. The ducks usually fly away after a brief swim in our salt water pool. But these ducks kept returning and we even spotted additional male ducks. This was different and somewhat concerning. We’d heard of ducks nesting near swimming pools and started looking around.

On March 24, we found a clutch of eggs concealed in a geranium that we’d planted near the edge of the pool. Truth be told, this geranium had gotten a bit large for the space. (My fault, I’d been reluctant to cut it back because I propagated it from a cutting and was rather proud of it.) It’s a lovely scented geranium that smells like lemons when you rub the leaves. Apparently, mother duck liked it too. One day, I startled her out from the plant and found the nest she’d been sitting on.

The clutch of Mallard duck eggs we found by our pool.
At one point there were three male ducks supervising the nest.

Thanks to all the rain, the level of the water in the pool was very high and the geranium was nicely sited at the edge, giving mother duck the impression this would make a cozy place for a nest. In truth, it’s not a good place because there would be nothing for the ducklings to eat in a swimming pool, and I began to worry about what would happen when they hatched. I’d heard of people feeding the ducks for weeks, which didn’t seem feasible. And there was already a lot of poop in and around the pool from the adult ducks.

The ducks and the dog were only mildly interested in each other.

But there was nothing to do but wait. Once you find a nest, federal laws prohibit any tampering with it, for good reason. Dr. Allison Shultz, Assistant Curator of Ornithology at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, assured me that ducklings are actually fairly independent.

On the altricial to precocial, scale, ducklings fall on the very precocial end of the spectrum, explained Schultz. Which means they are quite capable of moving around on their own shortly after hatching. An altricial bird is more helpless and requires significant parental care.

“It’s really best to leave things where you found them,” explained Schultz. “It’s very tempting to rescue baby birds, but most are just fine on their own. As humans when we see a baby bird on the ground, we don’t realize that it actually harms them if we move them because their parents don’t know where to find it. The strongest recommendation is to leave them be.”

Though Schultz acknowledged that life can be hard and many of these baby animals won’t make it.

“That’s the reality,” said Schultz. “This is an urban environment, these animals can’t always find water or an appropriate place to nest.”

But there are things we can do. Schultz suggested downloading the app “Animal Help Now,” it’s like an international 911 for animals. Started in 2011, Animal Help Now provides immediate and appropriate assistance for any wildlife emergency, all over the country, through a database of more than 3,700 helpers, including wildlife rehabilitators, rescues and hotlines, as well as veterinarians who treat wildlife. Animal Help Now can also help businesses that humanely resolve conflicts with wildlife, such as raccoons in attics and skunks under porches.

As for our ducklings, they hatched on Friday morning, April 21st, and were gone the next afternoon. My neighbors spotted them walking down the street. Another neighbor, who lives behind us, found two ducklings in his backyard and took them in, concerned they were in distress. After Larry and Gary (he named them) spent the night in his bathtub, he told us he took them to the LA Animal Services.

Lary and Gary in my neighbor’s bathtub. (photo from Nick)

With the mother and the ducklings gone, we decided to take Schultz’s advice and try to make our pool less appealing, because she said we could get another nest of eggs since Mallards can have more than one clutch a season.

Now we have our plastic cover over the entire pool. It’s working, sort of. We spotted another pair the other day, enjoying sitting on the cover – apparently it holds just the right amount of water.

We’re not sure what happened to the ducks. I saw a social media post from a nearby neighbor with photos of a mother duck and three baby ducklings following behind. It’s hard to say if these are the same ducklings that hatched here (they really do all look alike), or what might have happened to the rest of them. But Schultz said, in general, Mallards are doing fine.

“They are one of the most urban-adapted ducks out there,” said Schultz.

Next spring, you might find a pair in your backyard. As a realtor friend of mine notes at the bottom of her emails, “every bird needs a nest.”

Female duck we saw this morning. Not minding the pool cover and very close to the geranium now in bloom.
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Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

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  1. LOVE the ducklings!

    Hadn’t thought of this is years, but friends of mine in Scotsdale, of all places, had a family of ducks in theit
    neighborhood. The ducks would visit any house with a pool to give the little ones a quick dip, and then
    waddle off down the driveway & vanish. Occasionally they’d fly along the street & drop in on any friendly-
    looking (no cactus!) garden.

    Nice to know there are ducks everywhere and I’ve now learned that if I see them to let them be.


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