I rescued six ducklings!

July 9, 2021 • 12:30 pm

So get this: after duck feeding time this morning, three guys from Facilities came to the edge of the pond with a cardboard box. By the time I had walked up to them to find out what was going on, they had already dumped six newborn mallards, without a mother, into the pond. They apparently had rescued the babies from a sewer.  When I told them they shouldn’t have dumped the babies into the pond, as they would die for sure, they blew me off and said, “Oh, somebody will adopt them.” And then they walked away.

Not a chance in hell of adoption, of course: the adults immediately came over to attack them. Had the facilities guys just handed me that box of ducklings, i could have immediately driven it to the rehab person.

There was only one recourse: I changed into my “duck rescue clothes”, which I didn’t think I’d have to don this year, and waded into the pond channel with a fly net.

It’s hard to rescue baby mallards, for when you get close to them they dive and swim underwater for many feet, surfacing in a random spot. That, of course, is adaptive antipredator behavior, but it makes it damn hard to catch them. The water is up to my waist, and there are several feet of mud on the bottom, not to mention rocks and tree roots (I did it barefoot). It was a tough job.

Finally, after 45 minutes in cold water with a slimy, muddy bottom, I got all six! I was so happy! I was helped by two people: my duck colleague Jean Greenberg, who dried off each duckling as I caught it, and a very kind passerby named Sarah who helped guide me to the little ducklings as they surfaced. Sarah, I didn’t get your last name, but get in touch with me if you read this.

After I got them all, and they were dried, I took them to the Chicago Bird Collision Monitor rehab woman in Hyde Park, who will have them taken to the Willowbrook Wildlife Sanctuary tomorrow.

So that’s been my day. The ducklings may not all survive, but they surely would all have died in the sewer or the pond. So I am feeling good.  I did rip my scalp open on a branch while wading in the water (the ducklings tend to hide under low-hanging tree branches), but a few weeks of antibiotic cream should fix that.

Below are several of the babies after Jean dried them off. They’re clearly newborns.

Look at these cuties! Now they are six.

People! DO NOT DUMP BABY DUCKLINGS IN A POND! THEY WILL DIE FOR SURE. THEY DO NOT GET “ADOPTED”.  And if you’re in Hyde Park and have a baby mallard or any other injured bird, please get in touch with me, and I’ll ensure it’s taken care of properly.

There will be no more postings today as I’m exhausted, injured, and have no energy left. But it was worth it for sure.

23 thoughts on “I rescued six ducklings!

  1. The saying “Not all superheroes wear capes” is shown to be true! Chicago needs its very own Duck Signal (not sure how that works in the daylight hours, though).

    1. Needs an audio backup : a quacking foghorn, scaled up to blanket the state with it’s signal.
      Hmmm, there has to be an upper limit to sound intensity – probably where the foghorn rips the air into plasma. So you might need to network multiple foghorns together. Minor engineering details.

  2. The Facilities guys had their heart in the right place, if not their brains. Super Hero Prof. CC to the rescue!

  3. Those ducklings turned out to be winners in the one of the worst-odds lotteries in the universe. The luck involved in their crossing paths with someone who actually had the right knowledge and the good heart to go to bat for them (and get it right) is incalculable. Props to you, Jerry!

  4. Well done Jerry. I am always amazed by your dedication to the ducks in the pond. You are a hero. Keep up the good work.

  5. At the risk of being tarred and feathered, I’d bet a description of the “Facilities” chaps rescuing these wee newborns from a sewer would be much the same as yours…only without the dramatic blow-by-blow account! I dare say, those blokes most likely had the best intentions to save the brand-new lives of those ducklings as best they could…by relocating them to a fresh body of water, “your Botany Pond”, in the hopes that some loving creature would help save their tiny lives!! Do you not realize that THEY were the ones down in that sewer, not you…not I…not any of us sitting here? They could have so easily ignored the plight of those newborns and gone about their workday in the sewer, but they chose to gather them up in a cardboard box and transport those wee heartbeats to what those workers thought would be a more hospitable environment…they did what they thought would help the little ducklings be “adopted”! No chance of that in a sewer, agreed?

    1. My guess is workers were asked to rescue them, and made it clear they wouldn’t just let it go. And hopefully stayed with them until they got the OK and the equipment to do so. Workers need to know they won’t get in trouble for stopping work to even attempt a rescue. (Hundreds of feet of linked connections, ducklings can get separated, their cries are piteous, it is a miserable rushed and stressful task, and one not always completely successful.)

      But the right decision was made, it worked, they ended up in the hands of the experts. If the university is smart, they will see to it that Jerry is the “go-to guy,” in all matters duck, and that public relations documents it, should it happen again.

      Because everyone can rejoice over a Baby Duckling Rescue.

  6. Yes, agreed, but one of them knew me and should have asked me, knowing that I was in charge of the ducks in the pond, what they should do with them. Also, I’m not sure whether they rescued the ducklings on their own volition, or whether they were ordered to. I believe it was the latter and then they were told just to do something with the babies.

    I’m just stunned that we were standing there feeding ducks and nobody bothered to consult with us about what they did. Of course their actions contributed to saving the lives of those ducks, but their actions would also have doomed those ducks to a horrible and fearful death.

    The lesson is, when you deal with wildlife, find out what you’re doing first. Remember, last year a woman dumped two ten pound FLIGHTLESS Rouen ducks into the Pond, and I had to catch them and put them back in their dog carrier. Intention is one thing, knowing what you’re doing is another.

  7. … and a very kind passerby named Sarah who helped guide me to the little ducklings as they surfaced. Sarah, I didn’t get your last name, but get in touch with me if you read this.

    Say, Mister Deejay, do we have a tune we can dedicate to Jerry’s magnanimous but thus-far mononymous helper?

    Why, yes. Yes we do:

  8. It’s interesting that a mother Mallard is willing to steal another mother’s ducklings but not adopt a strange one. What’s up with that? There are so many questions this behavior raises.

    1. My best guess on that question is that it is timing. The duck doing the stealing also had some very small ones. However, just the same, if another little duck tried to get in, he would be rejected. I am more concerned with the two legged animals who just bring the little ducks to the pond and think that will work. That is the behavior that puzzles me. If you know nothing about ducks why would you not ask first? Instead they create a hell of a day for Jerry Coyne.

  9. Sorry about your scalp, but your difficult endeavor paid off big-time! Maybe get some neoprene booties as a part of your pond-immersion kit.

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