Help...There's a Duck Nest in My Flower Pot!

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Help...There's a Duck Nest in My Flower Pot!

What You Can Do To Help

OK, so the nest is THERE...Now what?

First, assuming you can live with the location, and are willing to make some lifestyle adjustments for the next five to seven weeks, your only necessary contribution is to minimize disturbance around the nest site. If Ma has homesteaded on your front porch, consider putting a barricade on the sidewalk to direct traffic to the back door. If she's in the back yard, set up an exclusion zone. If she is nesting in the lawn, consider letting the grass grow to provide concealment and minimize disturbance. (Heck, one biologist here got by without mowing the lawn for 12 years by convincing his wife that they had a mallard out there somewhere!)

If you must work around the nest, keep in mind that Ma will only be at the nest a short time each day during the laying period, and will leave the nest a couple of times daily to feed during incubation. Try to do whatever you need to do in the vicinity of the nest during her absences. But be careful where you step...once she covers the nest, your first indication of trouble may be yolk on your shoes. Also, be aware that Ma is very likely to permanently abandon the nest if disturbed early in the laying process, but will become increasing less likely to abandon in response to disturbance as time goes on. Also, anything you can do to prevent predation will raise the odds in Ma's favor. Fully 80-90% of all nests fail because of predation. Dogs, cats, raccoons, skunks, rats, squirrels, crows, gulls, and (possibly) bluejays are likely culprits in a suburban setting. Keep your pets leashed and ask neighbors to do the same. Fencing generally is not practical, but if you want you can erect a chicken wire exclosure when Ma is gone; just keep it 10 ft or so away from the nest and be sure to remove it a couple of days before the anticipated hatch date so that the brood can leave without delay. Also, if you accidentally flush Ma off of the nest, you can help protect the nest from avian predators by folding the edges of the nest over to cover the eggs. This will also help maintain a constant temperature during incubation. Don't worry about leaving your scent on the nest...birds in general have a lousy sense of smell; the idea that a bird will abandon a nest that has been touched by a human is just an enduring myth.

That's really about it. Stand back and let nature take its course. Don't worry about feeding Ma or the kids…she wouldn't have nested if she didn't have a reliable food source. So the nest is on the second floor balcony? Not to worry; a 15-20 ft jump is nothing to a down-covered duckling. If you want, let the grass grow below the balcony to further cushion the landing.

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