Has a mother duck built her nest on your property?
If so, you are not alone! Mallard ducks are prevalent in DC and are attracted to balconies, green roofs, and courtyards for their nests.
Why did she pick my building, house, or backyard?
Chances are, your location provides some of the things she is looking for in a
- Planters or plants that are low to the ground, but dense enough to provide shade and to hide the nest;
- Protection from predators, such as raccoons, hawks, owls, rats, cats, or dogs;
- Nearby access to water: a pool, fountain, stream or pond (generally within a few feet to 1 mile from the nest);
- A flat area, out of the wind.
Can we move the nest?
Before you perform any type of intervention you should consult a wildlife specialist. Most often the ducks are fine on their own and will leave once the ducklings are born. When intervention is required, we generally wait until the ducklings are born unless the mother is not safe in her current location.
What type of situation would require intervention?
Typically, some type of intervention is required if a Mallard makes its nest in an enclosed courtyard or on a balcony or roof. In these cases, the ducklings may become trapped. They have not learned to fly and are only able to jump over small obstacles. It is important for them to get to water so that they can find food (ducklings are precocial; they are born fully developed and ready to eat on their own, so their mother does not know how to feed them). Without help, these ducklings will starve or be abandoned by their mother. If intervention is required, we generally wait until the ducklings have hatched.
What if we feed them for her?
This is not recommended for a number of reasons. Feeding ducklings for 60 days until they can fly is challenging. Several duck chow products are made, but they are not geared to wild ducklings, so they must be supplemented with natural foods (such as insects and water plants) and nutritional supplements to produce an appropriate diet. Also, the constant intrusion by human beings will be stressful both for the ducklings and the mother, and it will alter the natural training that the mother would provide her ducklings in the wild. At worst, the ducklings may become habituated to humans, which will severely jeopardize their chances of survival in the wild.
How can I prevent more ducks from nesting?
It is important to prevent these situations from occurring, since they are upsetting to both people and ducks.
Here are some ways to prevent ducks from nesting on your property:
- Net or cage your plants to prevent nesting. (Ducks can nest all summer long.)
- Install spikes or other deterrents under plants that might be attractive for nests.
- Cut back your plants so that they do not provide enough cover for a nest.
- Gently disturb the mother duck if she seems to be looking for a place to nest. Do not touch her, but rather approach her quietly until she flies away. Do this repeatedly each time she lands.
- If she has already prepared a nest, remove it if there are not yet eggs in it. This is more humane than allowing ducklings to hatch in a place where they won’t survive. It is legal to remove a duck nest as long as there are no eggs in it.
- Allow breeding to occur if the nest is already established. It is a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to destroy eggs or to disturb a mother duck that has laid eggs without a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.(Permits to addle [oil] or remove eggs from nests can be obtained from USFWS but must be applied for well in advance. For more information about these permits, visit www.fws.gov/permits).
- Apply methyl anthranilate as a repellant. Methyl anthranilate is a harmless chemical related to grape juice that has been proven effective in repelling ducks when fogged every three weeks around nesting areas. “Liquid Fence” is one commercially available product that contains methyl anthranilate. One disadvantage of methyl anthranilate is that it smells strongly of grape juice.
Still need assistance? Give us a call at: (202) 882-1000 or send us an email.