Ducks Nesting In Your Backyard

My house in Wisconsin where I’ve lived for more than twenty years has a small area of woods bordered by a large lawn owned by a church. The church land slopes to a narrow drainage ditch providing a source of water most of the year except for the driest months of July and August. There are clumps of taller grass near the church garden and for several years now a pair of  Mallards has returned each spring to build their nest in one of these clumps. I discovered them when I noticed a Drake using my pool. The pool cover would fill up with water resulting in algae growth and the shallow water contained other sources of food. Routinely I would see one or both of the pair using my pool and I loved watching them as  they circled several times before dropping in. One day I spotted them on the ground near one of these clumps of grass and I carefully made my way over to see a nest with several eggs. Mallard nests are about 8 inches wide and 2 inches deep with cover from the nearby area used as camouflage. A hen will lay on average 9 eggs and once they start the incubation process they will hatch within 28 days. The hen will take the new ducklings to water right away which is why the drainage ditch in my backyard is vital. Often ducks and geese will return to their same nesting grounds year after year in fact sometimes the exact pothole, but I am not sure how many different pairs of ducks have been using this area over the years. It has everything they need. Cover, food, water and an open area to land in. Plus the church yard has limited people traffic so they are somewhat isolated. The only real issue besides the normal predators such as coyotes are neighborhood dogs including my black lab Sadie. Luckily the nest is at least 20 yards from where she runs although I watch her to make sure she doesn’t try and investigate. If you do discover a nest it is very important not to disturb it. When I was a student at the University of Wisconsin Madison obtaining my BS degree in Wildlife Ecology, I worked with several graduate students on projects and on one in particular we tracked duck movement in the Horicon Marsh. The rate of predation on duck eggs was high and so every duckling that survives is a success story. We want a good waterfowl population for our children and their children to enjoy for years to come.