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Mallards
Credit: Barbara Eckstein (beckstei on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Geese and Goslings at SuperstoreRose Webster on Paw Mane Fin / All rights reservedThis week, my daughter and I saw some Canadian geese with their baby goslings in the parking lot of our local grocery store (shown at right).

We were concerned about their safety but they quickly disappeared into a nearby pond.

As we watched them swim away, I couldn't help but feel I should write about our fine feathered friends. 

And several years ago, I was driving along a busy 4-lane city street in Toronto when out of the blue, a mother mallard duck or wild duck (Anas platyrhynchos) and seven ducklings just ventured out into the middle of the road.

Fortunately, drivers on both sides of the street stopped (some people put on their hazard lights too).

As we all watched, I noticed the ducklings seemed completely oblivious to the cars. They followed their mom in a straight line without glancing sideways.

The Toronto Wildlife Centre stresses that if you see ducks on a road, you should never put human safety at risk.

Sgt.Scott Hedrick (left) and Jeff Rukstad (right) of the Columbia Police Department release 13 ducklingsKOMUnews on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericOn a busy street or highway, do not attempt to help them across. Instead, call the police. 

I feel that it's wise to stay in your car and put your hazard lights on.

The hazard lights from cars in the distance were the first thing I noticed when I was driving along that busy street in Toronto.

Up next is a 23-second snippet of ducks crossing a highway.

Notice how they don't slow down when cars are barreling down on them?

It's a good thing the second car wasn't following too closely. (Put on those hazards).

 

Ducks Crossing the Highway

Published on September 19th, 2013 by ParengRoz

Ducks Get Their Own Walking Lanes

Ducks @ Tanfield 05Natalie Wilson on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.o GenericIn a May 21st, 2015 Huffington Post article by Cameron Keady, I was tickled to learn that duck lanes have been created along the waterways of England and Wales.

I couldn't find any free for commercial use photos, but you can see them in Keady's article Ducks In England Get Their Own Walking Lanes So Humans Don't Ruffle Their Feathers. The lanes sport the hashtag #share the space with a duck silhouette stenciled under it.

I'm not sure you can tell a duck where to waddle. But I'm guessing they would want to be in the lane closest to the water.

Apparently, the Canal & River Trust charity is responsible for the maintenance of inland waterways in the area. It's a vast region too, consisting of more than 2,000 miles. Since the lanes are narrow for all kinds of traffic, the campaign is called "share the space, drop your pace."

It is hoped that the designated lane for ducks will encourage pedestrians, cyclists and ducks to be mindful of each other.

Duck Feeding | The little girl next to us was feeding the ducks her leftover bread
Credit: HarshLight on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

How to Keep Ducks Healthy

I was impressed by how the Canal & River Trust addresses the problem of people feeding ducks. Bread (or chips) really aren't healthy for them. 

The environment minister explained

"Bread's not great for a duck's health as it's nothing like their natural diet so don't overfeed them with large quantities of it. Try to vary what you give them and swap it for healthier more natural treats like oats, corn, or defrosted frozen peas. And exercise portion control!"

Sign instructing people not to feed the ducks in Boston CommonsDan4th Nicholas (dan4th) on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

Feeding Bread to Ducks Also Damages Ecosystems

I also learned how damaging white bread is for the environment. In a March 16th, 2015 BBC Magazine Monitor post titled The Perils of Feeding Bread to Ducks, the following adverse effects have been observed:

  • Momma and ducklingsAndy Blackledge (hockeyholic on flickr) / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 GenericA bread-rich diet (especially processed white bread) can cause wildfowl to become ill and, in some cases, even cause a wing deformity known as angel wing or slipped wing.
  • Bread in waterways encourages the growth of harmful levels of algae and bacteria.
  • Rotting bread increases surface algae which can release toxins that damage aquatic life. It can also cause a potent, unpleasant smell in the area since more phosphates and nitrates are vented.
  • Bread floating in the water blocks sunlight that underwater plants require.
  • Certain types of algae, known as filamentous algae, tend to grow in areas where white bread has been fed to ducks. This algae impedes the flow of water since it grows upwards from the bottom of the riverbed. And more stagnant water tends to have higher amounts of bacteria and algae in it.
  • Decomposing bread attracts disease-carrying vermin. Of particular concern, rat urine transmits leptospirosis, also known as Weil's disease (which is deadly for humans).
  • And sadly, rotting bread is a growth medium for the aspergillus mould which can kill ducks.

On a Fun Note

I was looking for a video of people feeding ducks when I stumbled on this next clip. I was flabbergasted to watch this bow tie-wearing duck waddle into a pub to enjoy a beer. I've written about birds and an owl that had one too many in my article Tipsy Birds Kept Safe in Tiny Drunk Tanks (so I know it can happen).

Bow Tie-Wearing Duck Enjoys Pint In North Devon Pub

Published on May 26th, 2015 by WecomeNews44

Star the duck and his owner Barry Hayman with a pint of ale at The Old Courthouse Inn in Chulmleigh, North Devon. Star has developed a taste for Ale and he is often seen drinking at the pub.

But What About the Kids?

During my research, I checked out Ducks Unlimited Canada and found a fabulous activity page where you and your children can create:

Duck PuppetsUSFWSmidwest on flickr / Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic1) a mallard hand puppet (ages 3 to 8) Note: The hand puppet is not what is pictured at right.

2) a styrofoam decoy carving (ages 8 and over with adult supervision)

3) a wristband and certificate (similar to a leg band on a duck)

4) a toad house

Plus, you can even download 3-D paper models (with instructions) of the following wetland creatures: mallard, great blue heron, great horned owl, beaver, red fox, yellow-spotted salamander, leopard frog, painted turtle, largemouth bass, and dragonfly.

With the 3-D models, teachers and parents can help children create their own wetland world. I was impressed that educational information was written in English and several other languages including Spanish, Chinese, French, Cree, Somali, Korean, Ojibwe, Punjabi, and Vietnamese.

If You Didn't Already Love Ducks

I was thoroughly amazed at how brave (and trusting) ducklings are. To give you an idea, I found this next video of Sir David Attenborough explaining how mandarin ducklings emerge from the safety of their nest. It's truly a leap of faith. It was published by BBC America on May 18th, 2012.

Planet Earth: Incredible Families - Exclusive Sneak Peek

Published on May 18th, 2012 by BBC America

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