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Banding Together for Waterfowl

How to Handle "Urban" Ducks

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"I found a mallard nest on my property. What should I do now?"

It's one of the most frequent questions to hit Ducks Unlimited inboxes and phone lines. It's also a question that addresses an increasingly common phenomenon: mallards and mallard "lookalikes" inhabiting urban areas. Considering the biology behind waterfowl nesting, it's none too surprising.

Why do some ducks nest in urban environments?

Ideal waterfowl nesting habitat:

  • Contains adequate nesting cover
  • Provides the birds with food
  • Is not too far from water

Given the professionally landscaped lawns and lakes of most suburban neighborhoods and office parks—not to mention the readily available handouts from people and lack of predation—mallards (and, in many cases, Canada geese) find themselves quite comfortable living in close proximity to people. Most of these birds are at least a generation removed from the wild and so do not embark on the long migrations typically associated with wild waterfowl.

One of the main reasons mallards and geese can make themselves at home in urban areas is their high level of adaptability. As long as Mallard hen on nestthese basic requirements are met, these birds have a relatively good chance for survival and have been known to nest on rooftops and in parking lots, roadway medians, doorsteps, planters and other structures near homes, businesses, hospitals and schools.

Dale Humburg, DU's chief biologist, explained why these birds can adapt so easily. "Both giant Canada geese and mallards are broadly distributed, are common in more southerly areas of the continent than many breeding waterfowl, are quite adaptable to nesting sites and brood-rearing habitats and can become quite tolerant of people," he said. "Many of the mallards likely are not first generation and may have been reared in urban or at least semi-domestic situations; thus, they are already conditioned to a greater level of human disturbance." 

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Related:  urban ducksnesting

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