Readers’ wildlife photos: spring—and babies!

May 26, 2014 • 5:07 am

We have more birds today, and from two readers.

The first few photos, showing the babies of spring, were contributed by reader Ed Kroc, who took them in Vancouver’s Stanley Park.

A typical mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) family, always a happy spring sight.

Mallard Family

A mother wood duck (Aix sponsa) and her many chicks.  Wood duck clutches are usually quite big; this one mother had 15 chicks of her own!  

JAC: That, of course, means a huge mortality rate if the population size is stable 🙁

wood duck

And some resident Canada geese (Branta canadensis)., with Ed’s backstory:

During the second week of April, a mother goose commandeered a gull’s nest across the street from my apartment, laying a clutch of five eggs while the gull pair were out fishing. After a month of incubation, the five goslings hatched early on a Saturday morning.
Unfortunately, since the nesting site was located so high (ideal for gulls, not so much for geese), the goslings were in immediate trouble. Geese chicks need access to water. Since parent geese cannot regurgitate food for their young to eat, the first thing the parents do is lead them into calm water to start eating plants and insects on their own.
Baby geese have been known to jump from heights of 40 feet from their nest to the ground below to follow their parents to water. Of course, this usually happens in a marshy area, where the ground is soft and wet and, most notably, not made of concrete. The geese across the street managed to jump down two storeys from their nest to the main roof area, but from there the family was trapped. A large ledge surrounds the roof (probably about a foot high) and made it impossible for the goslings to get over the edge. Even if they could have mounted the ledge, it’s unlikely they would have survived the fall four storeys down to the pavement at street level.
I had worried about this day for a month, debating with myself what action should be taken, if any.  After a final round of semi-frantic indecision, my partner and I informed some residents of the building across the way about the situation, and after some phone calls to a wildlife service, the goslings and their mother were packed up and driven a few blocks west to Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park (the father found them later).
The family is doing fine now, and in fact paired up with another goose family of five chicks that hatched just a few days earlier.  You can see some of these adoptive cousins in the photo (they are slightly larger).  The two mothers and fathers, and the ten chicks, are now safely together and doing well in Stanley Park.
Goose family
How can such a cute little fluffball grow up into a nasty and agressive honker?
Baby goose

BTW, I have helped produce another brood of baby squirrels, which are feeding on my windowsill.

Finally, from Stephen Barnard in Idaho,a gadwall (Anas streptera):


16 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos: spring—and babies!

  1. The two mothers and fathers, and the ten chicks, are now safely together and doing well in Stanley Park.

    Now that’s a blended family!


  2. How can such a cute little fluffball grow up into a nasty and aggressive honker?

    Because it’s guarded by a nasty and aggressive honker!

    1. Now that suggests some imprinting experiments which are probably highly unethical :
      (1) highly aggressive honking chick raised by highly house-trained sofa-bird ;
      “sofa” bird (I can’t think of a more subtle definition) brought up by Herr Obergruppenfuhrer Nasty Aggressive Honker.
      Highly unethical ; I’ll bet someone has done it.

  3. Awww, such cute shots! I’ve been enjoying watching waterfowl broods myself these days.

    Wood Ducks (and indeed, many other species of ducks) commonly exhibit intraspecific nest parasitism, which can account for those huge clutch sizes. Here’s just one part of a long section of Birds of North America‘s relevant section in their Wood Duck article:

    Using microsatellite genetic markers, 85% (n = 39) of nests in natural cavities were parasitized and suggest high rates of parasitism are normal (Nielsen et al. 2006a). Morse and Wight (1969) reported that 58.3% (SD = 7.1, range = 52–66, n = 3 yr) of nests in boxes in Oregon were parasitized by conspecifics.

    I’ve also seen Wood Duck hens mixing broods after they hatch; in those cases you’ll see large broods being herded/led around by 2 hens, sometimes one in the front and one behind, like Canada Goose parents are often seen.

  4. Over the weekend I was driving home and I saw a car a few cars ahead of me and to the left hit a mother duck trying to lead her fuzzy little ducklings across a busy road. The car did not even try to slow down or swerve. There were cars in front of me so I did not know that anything was wrong until I saw what remained of the mother fly up from the front wheel and fall to the ground. After that the ducklings huddled around the mother’s body. Traffic was pretty thick and moving pretty fast so I did not want to think about what their final moments were like.

    I had to take a trip to the park later to watch the Canadian Geese grazing and swimming with their little ones without any motorists zipping along and giving them a nasy end.

    1. Oh, that’s appalling! It would take a long time for me to get over such a sight.

      If someone had gotten the scumbag’s license plate number, I wonder if any charges could have been brought against him/her?

      I once saw 5 lanes of traffic stop at an infamously busy intersection to let a Mallard hen & her brood cross the highway; that was one of those “improves your faith in humanity” experiences.

      1. I was super pissed off at the person driving that car. If I were in their place I would have stopped. It is a busy road but it is not like stopping for a minute so a duck family can cross the street is going to cause some major accident.

        1. Maybe s/he did that last year and got rear-ended by an idiot who was texting while driving?

  5. Yesterday I was driving along a busy street in Adelaide, South Australia where it is surrounded by the Parklands. The traffic stopped in both directions, and I wondered what was happening until I saw a group of Australian wood duck ( Chenonetta jubata) crossing the street. Perhaps we have better mannered here? They were of course using a pedestrian crossing!

      1. Thank you for reminding me of the book. I did read it to our children many years ago.
        No police officers were helping here, however.

  6. JAC: That, of course, means a huge mortality rate if the population size is stable 🙁

    Hili’s ears have pricked up.

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