Mallard nesting in garden in late October, NW England - advice please

Hi, We have a Mallard sitting eggs in our garden. It's late October and I wonder how unusual this is? We're in Northwest England and the winter will surely mean the ducklings won't survive? The mother had a clutch of 13 earlier this year. One duckling was yellow and was taken by a magpie, the others got to the local pond ok but disappeared overnight so I guess they didn't survive due to predators. My partner was very distressed by this and I want to know what is the right thing to do for the mother and ducklings if they hatch. I don't see a way for them to survive the winter and am also worried for the mother. My partner is talking about looking after the ducklings but she doesn't appreciate the potential problems with this.

I'm concerned for the ducks but I guess nature will take its course. Do you have any advice? Is there is anything we can do to help them? I'm also looking to protect my partner from any distress if possible.

  • Hello Stevie,     I fully understand your concern for the Mallard especially nesting outside of the usual season (March - July)  and all I can suggest is that you perhaps contact the British Trust for Ornithology for their advice, details of which can be found HERE.      If she has only just started laying eggs (I think one is laid per day)  they would take around 28 days to hatch once the female begins to sit on them which is after they have almost all been laid;    fledging would be around two months after hatching.      It would seem unlikely they would either hatch due to the lateness of the season or progress to fledging but with climate change who knows !     We often say let nature take its course but it is also hard to do that when you care so deeply for birds and want to do the right thing, hence I suggest you get expert advice from the BTO using one of the contact methods I have given you links for.     It is reassuring to know there are many caring folk like yourself and your partner that will seek out advice to help birds so thank you and hope the BTO can offer their advice.   

    Note:  If the chicks had hatched then you would normally have to gather them together in a box and try (difficult as it can sometimes be and not always possible) to catch the female before phoning RSPCA to collect them.    I would certainly not advise taking on the care of ducklings (if they did hatch), however well intended your intentions are as they need expert and full time care.

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    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • In reply to HAZY:

    Many thanks Hazel. I've followed your advice and sent an email query to BTO. I'll update on here if anything develops. The Mallard (we call her Doris) has been sitting for about 5 days now. There are 14 or 15 eggs. I've asked for advice about maybe protecting or insulating the nest but don't want to spook her. If this really is a result of global warming and not just a one off then its a powerful illustration of what might be around the corner for us all. Hope not. I'll prepare for collecting the ducklings if they hatch, I don't think letting them go to the pond will work. Thanks again.
  • Hopefully the BTO will respond with some good advice and your report regarding the mallard and eggs will also add useful information into their own database. If she's been sitting on the eggs for about 5 days it will still be another 23'ish days to go before hatching (assuming the eggs are successful). Good luck Stevie and look forward to any updates in due course.

    _________________________________________________________________________

    Regards, Hazel 

    "Each kindness shown to birds or men is sure to flutter back again" 

  • Hope all goes well Stevie with Doris, if the eggs hatch and you collect all the babies and mum, they will at least get expert help and attention. Good luck, keep us updated.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

  • Thanks everybody for your interest. I did get a reply from Lee at BTO, copied here. I will contact RSPCA for advice if the ducklings do hatch.

    "Thank you for your query. Mallard are a species which can nest at any time of year, particularly now the weather can be a bit warmer but nesting early or late in the year can be a risky strategy as cold and wet weather can make the nest fail. Mallard nesting at this time of year are birds that have probably had a nesting attempt already but hope they can squeeze another one in. Ducklings can be seen into December. The behaviour of the female keeping her head down is a predator avoidance measure, so she doesn't look so obvious when sitting on her nest.

    At this time of year I would also suggest leaving the nest alone unless the weather takes a turn for the worst, like deep snow or heavy rain for days, then phone the RSPCA for advice. As you mention putting insulation or predator proofing might have a negative result, as the female might not be able to regulate the temperature of her nest as well or avoid predators herself e.g fox or corvid. Mallard can start to nest in February again so I don't think it will be long before the nesting year starts again."
  • In reply to Steviebill:

    Thanks for the update Stevie. Fingers crossed here for Doris.
    Dave