LINCOLN, Neb. – Reports of ducks nesting under bushes and in gardens and landscaping near houses are common this time of year. Most reports are of concern about the hen and nest or how the ducklings, once hatched, will make it to the nearest water.
“The best thing you can do for a hen and her nest is to leave them alone,” said Mark Vrtiska, waterfowl program manager for the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “I’ve seen a lot of people put food or water near the nest site and that has a lot of potential to attract predators. Hens can find food and water, and they are equipped to take care of themselves and their nest. If something gets the nest, then that is a reflection of a hen’s poor choice in nesting sites.”
Mallards are the most common duck nesting in urban areas. In the wild, they are known to nest up to a mile or more from water. “People also are concerned that there isn’t any water around,” Vrtiska said. “Well, it doesn’t take much, and the hen will find it.”
Wood ducks also commonly nest in urban areas, using tree cavities as nesting sites. “We get calls each year about wood duck hens that have abandoned their ducklings,” Vrtiska said. “Likely, that’s far from the truth. She may have left them temporarily – especially if you have come around – but she will get back to them if you don’t interfere.”
State and federal law protects ducks and their nests, and it is illegal to disturb hens, eggs, nests or ducklings.