This week WIRES Northern Rivers has rescued 20 Australian Wood ducklings, all orphaned because the parent birds and siblings were run over as they crossed the road, or were feeding on the side of the road.
Breeding season for Australian Wood ducks is September to November in the South, but in our local area of Northern NSW breeding takes place after rain, and let’s face it, we have had plenty of that recently.
The nest is constructed in tree hollows. The female incubates her 9 to 11 eggs, while the male stands guard on the ground to fight off intruders who might threaten his family.
Once the chicks have hatched and are a few days old, their parents sit at the bottom of the tree and call for their chicks to join them. If this doesn’t entice them out, the female will teach her ducklings to jump out of the nest by repeatedly flying between the nest and the ground, calling out to her chicks.
To protect their young, the devoted parents sometimes perform a ‘broken wing’ routine, they pretend to be maimed to lead predators away from their young. At other times they will freeze with their chicks and stick their necks out to distract and confuse predators.
Wood Ducks are mainly herbivores, preferred diet is grasses, clover and other herbs, they will also eat insects. At times they can be seen feeding on new green shoots on the side of the road. This can lead to them being hit by cars.
Ducks do not have road sense, if you are driving and come across a family of ducks crossing the road please slow down.
Stop if safe to do so, put your hazard lights on to alert other drivers, and allow the ducks to cross. It doesn’t take long.
This group of duckling orphans will be raised in WIRES care and released when they are old enough to survive in the wild.
As WIRES volunteers trained in avian care, we can keep them warm, safe and fed, but we cannot teach them to be ducks, the parent birds do a much better job of that, which is why we ask you to please help reduce the carnage happening on our roads currently.
PLEASE SLOW DOWN if you see ducks near or on the road, right now it is highly likely that they have ducklings either about to join them on the ground, or close by.
If you do find ducklings on their own, contain them in an escape proof box with a towel or jumper to snuggle in, place in a warm room and call WIRES straight away on 1300 094 737 for advice.