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San Diego Humane Society

Ducks and Geese: Coexisting with Wildlife

What to do if you find:

Adult Ducks

Project Wildlife cannot remove healthy ducklings from backyard pools because the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Permits do not allow us to relocate healthy wildlife. It is illegal to disturb any active nest! This includes a nest with eggs or ducklings. Project Wildlife helps an average of 800 ducks and geese each year, 94% of which are Mallards. There are also many varieties of domestic ducks that have been abandoned and have bred with wild ducks. 

For advice on injured or sick adult ducks, follow the same guidelines in the sea/shore bird section.

Baby Ducks

If you have rescued orphaned ducklings, they will need immediate care from a licensed rehabilitator who will raise them to be wild and return them to their environment when they are ready.

Because they are usually kept very warm (under Mother) when they are tiny chicks, the ducklings need to be placed in a warm, safe environment while they await transport and care at a facility. This can be accomplished simply by placing the chicks in a tall cardboard box with a 60 watt light bulb overhead and newspapers on the floor.

Do not allow baby ducklings to swim. Please make sure they stay as dry as possible because they can quickly get hypothermic (chilled) and die.

Food & Water

To be safe, do not feed rescued ducklings, improper feeding methods can cause serious or even fatal problems. A shallow jar lid to water may be offered if the ducklings are active and alert.

Mallards are the most common duck in San Diego
  • Pairs form between October and March and the male leaves quickly after mating.
  • Hens give birth more successfully as they become older.
  • Clutch size ranges from 8-13.
  • Mallards help the economy by providing a large industry for hunting in North America.
  • Females can give a quack called the hail call that is heard for miles to bring other ducks to her.
Ducks in Pools

There are several ways to keep migrating ducks and ducks preparing to nest from taking up residence in your pool or backyard. Preventative measure should be taken in late winter to prepare for spring. Discouraging nesting and residency before they occur is easier than solving these problems once they have occurred. If the mom can be caught along with the ducklings, which may be difficult, they can be moved to a safer location together.

  • Do not leave out food that the ducks might eat.
  • Brightly colored objects floating freely in the pool, such as a beach ball or other floating pool toys discourage ducks.
  • Cover the pool during migration a few weeks during the fall.
  • Ducklings that have fallen into a pool will not be able to climb out with the steep pool edges. Help them climb out by improvising a ramp from the water to the pool edge.

The easiest ramp to build is made from a piece of Styrofoam and a towel. Use a very large bath towel and the lid of a Styrofoam cooler (available at most convenience stores). Wet the towel (to increase its weight) then float the Styrofoam lid at the edge of the pool and drape half of the wet towel over the Styrofoam lid. The other half of the towel should be draped over the edge of the pool. It can be weighted down with a brick if needed. 

The Styrofoam will serve as a floating dock that the ducklings can jump onto. The towel will allow them to make their way over the edge of the pool.

When does a duck or goose need to come to the Project Wildlife Care Center?

  1. Duck or goose cannot fly. Make sure it is not a juvenile that cannot fly and needs to stay with it's parents.
  2. The duck or goose is holding a wing in an abnormal position.
  3. The bird is limping, bleeding or obviously hurt.
  4. Ducklings with no parents. Remember that no one can relocate healthy ducklings when parents are around them.


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