Families of geese and ducks with their babies in tow is an awww-inspiring sight. For the new parents, springtime can be perilous as they help their newly-hatched babies make their way from their nest site to nearby streams, ponds and lakes.
For Canada geese, both the male and female parents will care for the goslings. You will often see them co-parenting together or in larger groups of adults with other goslings. This means it may be possible to incorporate orphaned goslings into new wild families.
Mallard ducklings are only cared for by their mom. She is very protective of her babies, and is much less likely to accept babies that aren’t hers. Orphaned ducklings typically need to go to a wildlife rehabilitation centre until they’re grown and ready for release.
Weird nest spots?
Ducks and geese choose nesting sites that don’t always make sense to us. Particularly in urban areas, they often select areas like cement islands in the middle of parking lots, or enclosed school courtyards, which may seem like less-than-ideal choices from our perspective. These unusual areas often have features that meet the needs of the nesting waterfowl – a wide, unobstructed view of approaching predators for a nesting goose pair, or a camouflaged nest site for a single female mallard.
If they choose to nest in a busy area, you may want to set up cones or warning tape to let people know to stay away from the nesting parents. Once the eggs have hatched, the whole family will very quickly leave and make their way to a nearby water source.
Common dangers for ducklings and goslings
Ducks and geese are “precocial” species, which means ducklings and goslings are able to go straight from hatching to swimming and self-feeding. Once the babies hatch, the newly-formed family will leave the nest and make their way as a group to a nearby water source. In most cases, they can do this with little difficulty. However, in some situations, they may need help to get their new family to safety.
These challenging situations can include:
- Duck or goose families attempting to cross busy roadways
- Ducks or geese nesting on high buildings (more than two storeys) where a fall could injure babies as they attempt to make their way from the area
- Nest sites in enclosed areas (solid-fenced balconies, walled courtyards) where babies will be unable to leave once they have hatched
- Ducks or geese nesting near pools, where babies could hop into the water and not be able to get out
- A duckling or gosling separated from their family and wandering alone, with no adults or other babies nearby
Call the BC SPCA Animal Helpline at 1-855-622-7722 to help assess these situations and advise how best to assist these web-footed families.
Once families have made it safely to their chosen water source, young birds will remain with their mother (in the case of mallards) or in larger groups of adults and other babies (in the case of geese) for several months, learning all of the skills they will need to survive in the wild.
Ways you can help
- Never feed ducks or geese
- Give nesting ducks and geese ample space
- Keep cats indoors and dogs on leash
- Contact our Animal Helpline at 1-855-622-7722 to help assess baby wildlife situations
Baby duck or baby goose?
Ever wonder how to tell ducklings and goslings apart? At first glance these downy yellow babies can look very similar, but they have distinct differences in size and colour to distinguish them. Mallard ducklings are much smaller than Canada Goose goslings, and they have dark chocolate brown and yellow markings with a dark line through their eye. In contrast, goslings are an olive-green and yellow colour, and they lack the distinct line through their eye.
Spot the difference in the photo below of two Canada Goose goslings next to several mallard ducklings in care at BC SPCA Wild ARC. This time of year is prime time for duck and goose families, so next time you spot a family group, see if you can use these tips to tell who’s who!
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