Are you my mother? Duckling abandoned after being born in the wrong nest

·2 min read
This goldeneye duckling hatched in the wrong nest and is looking for a new family to join. (Ducks Unlimited/Submitted - image credit)
This goldeneye duckling hatched in the wrong nest and is looking for a new family to join. (Ducks Unlimited/Submitted - image credit)

This goldeneye is a bit of an odd duck.

The egg it eventually hatched from landed among a family of wood ducks near the St. John River in Fredericton.

The egg was part of a practice called interspecific brood parasitism, when a bird lays an egg in another bird's nest.

"Basically not putting all your eggs in one basket," said Samantha Brewster, education specialist for Ducks Unlimited, a nonprofit organization that conserves wetlands.

Every year, staff install nest boxes along the St. John River to provide attractive nesting sites for birds and to help with research.

They also installed cameras to watch the entire process unfold.

Our poor little duckling who got left behind. - Samantha Brewster, Ducks Unlimited

In mid-April, a wood duck hen used the box as a nesting site to lay her eggs.

At the same time, a goldeneye hen snuck one of her eggs into the wood duck's clutch,

The wood duck eggs were all white, while the goldeneye egg was blue-green.

The eggs hatched about a month later.

'The last one out of the box'

The next day, the wood duck ducklings were called by their mother to leave the nest box. And the ducklings responded by chirping back.

"The goldeneye was the last one out of the box," she said. "He didn't sound like the other babies."

The other ducklings were leaving the nest and heading to the river to find food.

Within 20 minutes, they were gone.

"She left this poor little guy running up and down the shore just crying and crying," she said. "And no one was coming for him.".

Finding a new family

Brewster says Ducks Unlimited, along with the Atlantic Wildlife Institution, have already identified a duck family just outside the city, who could potentially take on the goldeneye.

As soon as the eggs start to hatch, the goldeneye will join them

"Hopefully she will take it with the rest of her flock," she said.

But the timing will have to be just right.

If the baby ducks leave the nest by the time the goldeneye is placed there, it will once again be left behind.

If this happens, Brewster said the duck will be released back into the wilderness where it was found.

She said ducks have good instincts and the bird will be able to migrate south on its own.

Ducks Unlimited set up a nest box for birds to come in and lay their eggs as part of the organization's research effort.
Ducks Unlimited set up a nest box for birds to come in and lay their eggs as part of the organization's research effort.(Ducks Unlimited/Submitted)

Typically, Brewster said they wouldn't interfere with nature because animals do get separated from their parents.

"In the wild, it is true he would not survive," she said.

But because they were monitoring the situation from the beginning, the organization wanted to help "our poor little duckling who got left behind."

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