Duck - Goose Egg And Nest Information


Nesting Calculator

Step 1

Type of waterfowl
Mallard?
Muscovy?
Goose?

Step 2

Are there eggs already in the nest?

Step 3

Is the duck sitting on the nest all day long?
Answer

Mallard Duck And Goose Nesting Behavior Information

Males and female mallards and geese pair up in late fall. Nesting begins in early to mid Spring. Duck and goose nests are usually made away from the duck or goose's main body of water. The male and female will scout out the nest site together, looking for sites with low predator activity. They'll select spot under shrubs or bushes, or within taller vegetation. The nests are usually just shallow depressions in the ground that the waterfowl line with breast feathers. Even though the females can safely fly in and out of the nesting location, they don't always anticipate that they'll have to walk out (can't fly out) once the ducklings or goslings hatch. So it's not unusual to find nests located close to busy streets, in flowerbeds, or in enclosed courtyards. The female will return to the selected site to lay an egg each day, then return to the water to be with the male.

How Many Eggs Do Mallard Ducks Nesting Lay?

Duck EggsMallards lay between 8-12 eggs and muscovies lay between 12-18 eggs. The egg laying process lasts for an equal number of days (it takes 12 days to lay 12 eggs). Once egg laying is complete, she will leave the male (who will wait at the water for her) and she will begin incubation on the nest fulltime. By waiting to incubate until egg-laying is complete, this ensures all the eggs hatch at the same time. At this stage the females will only leave the nest to quickly get food/water and briefly visit with the male, usually very early in the morning and late in the evening. She can be observed taking flight towards and returning from the direction of her preferred body of water.

How Long Does It Take For Mallard Duck Eggs To Hatch?

In 24 to 28 days for wild mallard ducks ( 28 to 32 days for muscovies ), all the eggs in the nest will hatch within a twenty-four to 48 hour period. Once all the ducklings have finished hatching and gained strength, the mother will walk her brood of newly hatched ducklings back to the water where her mate should be waiting. Returning to the male ensures protection for both the female and the ducklings.

Common Egg And Nest Questions

I found a duck's nest with eggs but haven't seen any ducks nearby. What should I do?

If an unattended duck nest is discovered and it has less than 8 eggs and there are no signs of predation (broken eggs, disturbed nest, etc), it might be safe to assume that the female has not yet completed egg laying. She will only stay near the nest and begin incubating the duck eggs once she has laid ALL her eggs.

What can I do if a mallard that was sitting on a nest of eggs hasn't been seen in a day or two?

If the eggs are still warm, then you've probably just missed mom and she should be back soon. If the eggs are not warm anymore, or you suspect the nest has been abandoned (this happens rarely) or suspect that something has happened to the female mallard, contact a wildlife rehabilitator so that one or two of the eggs can be candled to see how developed the embryos are or if they are still viable. View theEgg Candling Chart to see the stages of egg development.

A mallard started laying eggs in a nest in our yard under our bushes. She hasn't come back in a week, and no new eggs have been laid while she has been gone. What should I do with the eggs?

If there are less than 8 eggs and during the course of a week no new eggs have been laid, it is possible that the female abandoned the nest (perhaps a predator frightened her off) or something has happened to her and she is unable to return. The viability of the eggs can be determined through Egg Candling. If possible, leave the eggs for another week. If the end of that week, there are still no new eggs and the mother hasn't returned, the eggs can be discarded. We realize that many people want to rescue the eggs and take them to a rehabilitator so that they can incubate them and raise the ducklings. However, rehabilitators are usually already inundated with live ducklings and hatching unincubated eggs (with no live embryo) only limits how many more live ducklings the rehabilitator can accept into care. When discarding unincubated eggs, we recommend that the eggs be cracked as a precaution to prevent any possible development. Please also remember to thoroughly wash your hands after handling eggs.

If you have found an orphaned or lone duckling

Click here for additional information on orphaned ducklings

Mallard ducklings are federally protected birds and must be reared by a permitted wildlife rehabilitator. Click here to find a rehabilitator near you: Wildlife Rehabilitator Listings.

Muscovy ducklings are considered domestic ducks and can be reared by individuals without permits if your local zoning ordinances permit. Click here to obtain information regarding the rearing of muscovy ducklings.

If You Find A Wild Duck Nest In A Potentially Dangerous Location:

  • "Guess" when the eggs will hatch based on observations or use the Nest Calculator at the top of this page. How long has the female been seen on her nest fulltime? It is important to have a general idea of when the ducklings will hatch.
  • If the nest is in a residential area mom and ducklings can be chaperoned on their walk back to the water if there is a concern about vehicular traffic in the neighborhood.
  • Use the guesstimated date to plan for this walk. Also get the assistance of a couple of neighbors, but discourage bringing children along because the mother duck may view them as a potential predator.
  • If the nest is separated from the water body by a major road, the following should be done:
  • Find out what body of water the female utilizes. Try to observe her as she leaves the nest for her early morning or late evening feedings. If intervention is needed, taking mom and ducklings to the wrong water body will only make matters worse. In other words, you can not guess (you must know where she is headed). Once she begins incubating, the female can be seen flying to the water source where her mate is waiting (once or twice a day - early morning or late afternoon), for food and water. The water body is usually within 200 yards of the nest site. Even if the exact location is not know, the direction which she usually heads is needed.
  • Based on the "guesstimate" of when the eggs should hatch, approximately one week before the due date put up a 12"-24" tall wire or mesh fence around the nesting site. The openings should not be larger than 1 inch, otherwise the ducklings can escape. The fence should be at least 3 feet away from the nest so that it is wide enough to let female mallard easily fly in and out. This fence will prevent a mom from trying to move the ducklings until assistance can be provided. This only be done if the nest is in a location where someone is observing it daily and the move can occur on the same day (otherwise the ducklings could die from dehydration, starvation, or be trapped and vulnerable to predators).
  • Once the ducklings hatch, they can be moved into an escape-proof pet carrier and walked to the water body. Only one person should do the "walk"; a crowd of people or too much activity will deter mom from staying nearby. Mom must be able to hear and preferably see the ducklings throughout the move so she does not get too discouraged and abandons them. If mom flies away, set the carrier down until she returns (usually within a matter of minutes) then resume the "walk". Once you arrive at the water body, set the carrier down then back away and let mom and babies vocalize with one another for a minute or two. If you open the carrier before they have identified their mom, they will scatter.

If a mom and ducklings are already on the move and are headed for imminent danger:

  • Decide whether it is possible to delay the move until traffic volume is lower and they can be chaperoned across the street, or whether they will need to be captured and relocated to the other side of the street.
  • Create a barrier to prevent mom from attempting to cross the street (human deterrence, sheets, fencing, etc) and encourage mom to return to the nesting site (or someplace that the babies can be easily captured).
  • Ducks and ducklings remain calmer when humans move in slow, deliberate moves. To herd the ducklings to an area for easier capture, volunteers should form a semi-circle around the ducklings (maintain a 6-12 foot buffer) and slowly walk the ducklings towards the preferred area. Use movements similar to guiding a plane in for a landing; long, slow sweeps with your arms works best. Mom will stay with the ducklings until she feels threatened, then she will briefly fly away. Once the ducklings are cornered, use the bed sheet to create a makeshift fence and transfer the ducklings to the pet carrier. Moving mom with the babies is preferable, but impossible if she is capable of flight. Do not begin the move until mom has returned.
  • It is important to know what direction mom was originally headed. Relocating her to the wrong body of water will leave her and the ducklings without the protection of the male. She may even attempt to move them to the proper location, again placing herself and the ducklings in danger.

Ducks or Ducklings In The Pool

Click here to view information and products for ducks or ducklings in the pool

Humane Domestic Duck Management

For the complete article on Duck Management for Communities, Click Here.

The goal is to humanely keep populations in check so that acts of cruelty against domestic ducks are reduced. Many people don't like Muscovy ducks and feel they have a negative impact on wild duck populations. When they outnumber wild populations, incidents of cruelty increase.

During the laying period (before incubation), the eggs are still dormat and should be vigorously shaken to cause the internal structure to change. Each shaken egg should be dated with a crayon the day it is shaken and returned to the nest. It can also be coated with vegetable oil. If the eggs are not returned to the nest, the female will mate again and start a new one. Do not shake two of the eggs so that the female will have young to care for, instead of starting another nest once she realizes that the eggs won't hatch. Keep the unshaken eggs on top of or away from any oiled eggs. The shaken eggs can be safely discarded one week after the female leaves the nest with her new ducklings; or 45 days after incubation began. NEVER shake an incubated egg; it has begun development and rather than rendering the egg infertile it will result in a deformed duckling.

  • Note: This information refers to domestic ducks only! It is a violation of federal law to disturb the eggs, nests, or raise ducklings of all wild ducks without first obtaining the necessary permits.
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