July to September is breeding time for ducks - before then they are looking for safe places to nest and raise their young.
If you see two ducks wandering around your yard but there doesn’t seem to be a nest then it is likely they are seriously considering your back yard as a nest site. If you don’t want them to stay, now is the time that you should chase them off at every opportunity and, if you have a pool, cover it. They are very persistent but if you are too you can make them know they won’t have a peaceful nest and they will move on.
Ducks often nest a considerable distance from wetlands and, being well adapted to urbanisation, they are often in backyards as they feel secluded and safe from predators. Ducks are secretive and they could be incubating before anyone is aware of their presence.
Nests are usually under shrubbery or amongst tall grasses, but can be in tree hollows off the ground. If you find a nest with eggs it must be left alone, and keep pets away – it’s an offence to disturb nesting birds or to remove eggs.
As the last egg (of around 12) is laid, the female starts to incubate and she rarely leaves the nest apart from short breaks to feed and stretch her legs. She doesn’t need to be fed - she’ll be eating grass, slugs and snails (great for your garden – don’t use slug pellets as these will be harmful).
The eggs hatch approximately 28 days after laying and the following morning the mother will lead the young to water.
If you don’t want them to return next year (they will), think about why they chose that spot and make it less attractive to them once they’ve gone.
Ducks are attracted to swimming pools as they can clearly see there are no underwater predators that may take them or their young. However, there is nothing edible for them and they can find it difficult to get out. It is a good idea to turn off the filtration system as the ducklings may get sucked into it.
The best method in preventing ducks from using your pool is to use a pool cover. Other preventative measures include floating devices such as pool noodles or inflatable pool toys – ones with faces / eyes work best – however, ducks will soon catch on that they are harmless so these aren’t permanent solutions.
Ducklings will struggle to get out if the edge or steps are too high. Place a ramp for them to walk up. A piece of shade cloth or lattice fencing resting up the side of the pool is very effective.
When the mother leads her young away (she knows where she’s going), leave gates open, keep pets inside and the pool covered. It can be a reasonably long walk (for a duck) which invariably involves crossing roads and / or cycle paths.
Ducks on the move have been known to bring major highways to a halt, so road users should try to avoid them without endangering themselves or other road users – the best advice is to slow down.
For your own safety, do not go onto or near the edge of any road to rescue ducks – contact police on 131 444. The police are the only people who can control traffic if necessary.
Unless the birds are in immediate danger it is not recommended that you attempt to relocate them.
If you think the ducklings have been abandoned - it is quite normal for them to be left for a few hours by the mother as she goes off for a feed - observe from a distance for a while to see if she returns. Call the Helpline (9474 9055) if you’re unsure.
While ducklings are able to feed themselves as soon as they hatch, abandoned ducklings require a lot of care until they fledge (at around 50 days) and become independent. This is a long and avoidable process that greatly reduces their chance of long term survival and puts unnecessary strain on wildlife rehabilitators.
It can also be dangerous if they are relocated to unsuitable areas – ducks can be territorial and do not tolerate stray ducklings close to their own brood, attacking strange young they come across.