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Infiltration of the Duck.

Photobucket photo A. Clontz

Northside is under gentle attack. The site’s revolutionary Mama Duck has occupied the lettuces and decidedly endures the daily mist of an irrigation system we’ve recently installed on and around the surrounding beds. Curious about this Mallard’s precarious choice of location in a high human-traffic zone, I’ve done a bit of research into the nesting habits of ducks.

Whereas other birds diligently create their nests from scratch, Mallards are notorious for setting up shop in a ready-made spot. In our case, she has taken solace in a plush Northside lettuce bed, as her primary concern is to nest near a body of water (Northside is located along the north branch of the Chicago River).

We first discovered three eggs during the laying period in which the duck only visits the nest for roughly one hour per day while she works on nest construction. Don’t worry! Mama Mallard doesn’t need to incubate all day, as the embryos have not yet developed.

The stage in which we’ve most recently found Mama has been incubation. This stage typically lasts 25 - 29 days, in which the duck will leave to feed for one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon. As the hatch date approaches, she will feign injury if she is disturbed. Once she feels safe, she will return to the nest as she is no longer threatened.

Once the laying stage occurs, all viable eggs will hatch within 12-24 hours of one another. After a period of brooding, she will lead her ducklings to the closest wetland with the most aquatic invertebrates to feed her young.

As for Daddy Mallard, he will spend time with Mama Mallard, searching for a nesting site and providing initial support during the incubation period. He will eventually lose interest and find another mate. That’s nature!

-Annie Clontz

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