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Wildlife Info

Common Waterfowl Situations and Solutions
Waterfowl Nesting Behavior (and sensitive species)
Don’t Feed the Ducks

Birds of Prey
Common Birds of Prey Situations and Solutions
Birds of Prey Nesting Behavior

Domestic Waterfowl
Do Ducks Make Good Pets?
Don’t Park your Duck
Don’t Feed the Ducks

Nuisance Wildlife (situations and solutions)
Ducks swimming in the pool
Herons eating all our fish
Vultures, vultures everywhere
Animals Living in our house
Geese on my property – how to get rid of them

Female Mallard

Waterfowl - Common Waterfowl Situations and Solutions
There are ducklings or goslings wandering around without a parent
No young waterfowl should be without their parents. Slowly herd the ducklings or goslings into an area where they can be captured and put in a tall box. Try to keep them all together as a single bird will panic and be more difficult to catch. DO NOT ASSUME that nearby adult waterfowl are their parents. If you release babies with adults that are not their parents, they could be killed. Call us immediately – the birds will need to be admitted to our clinic.

There is a ducks nest at a dangerous location
Nests are frequently located near busy roads and highways. Nests can also be located in highly trafficked areas: outside shopping mall entrances and in school play-yards. It is important to know that nests cannot be moved. If a nest is moved, even just a few feet, the female will most likely abandon the nest. If a nest is put inside a container or crate so that it can be moved very short distances, the female will most likely abandon the nest. Please read the section below on Waterfowl Nesting and call us for more advice.

There are ducklings or goslings in traffic next to a dead adult
If possible, collect the dead bird for identification and round the ducklings up carefully into a tall box. Try to keep them all together as a single bird will panic and be more difficult to catch. Call us immediately – the birds will need to be admitted to our clinic.

There are ducks or geese in my pool – what do I do?
First find out if ducks are adults or babies. Adult ducks may nest near or visit swimming pools. They pose no health risk if the pool is chlorinated and the presence of humans or animals will frequently scare them off.

If there are baby ducks in the pool: yes, they are cute, but they are probably stuck. They will need help quickly because although they are good swimmers, they can tire and drown. If their mother is still with them, try not to scare her away. Don’t speak or make sudden movements. Flood your pool by filling it with hoses; this may take too long…depending on how high the water level is. You should try to build ramps near the steps and ladder. Often just a few rocks placed on the top steps is enough for the ducklings to get out. Place any pool floats in the pool so that the ducklings can hop up on them and rest. If the ducklings don’t use the ramps, use the pool skimmer to gently shovel the ducks out of the pool and into a tall cardboard box. Once all of the ducklings are in a box, move them as far away from your pool as possible, tie a string to the top of the box and wait for the mother to approach the box on foot. Once the mother duck is near the box, pull the string to tip the box. Their mother will lead them to the nearest natural body of water. Don’t feed the ducklings or try to keep them in your pool; the chlorinated water isn’t good for them and nothing that you can feed them will meet their complex nutritional requirements.

The ducks that nested by your swimming pool might return next year. Be prepared. Visit www.froglog.us and consider purchasing one of their inexpensive ramps. They will also help any other animals who venture into your pool by accident.

Ducklings or goslings fall through a sewer grate
If these ducks aren’t rescued, they will die from lack of food and clean water.

DO NOT REMOVE A SEWER GRATE without first talking with your local police department. All grates must be replaced after the rescue to prevent accidents.

After removing the grate, start by blocking off any entrances to tunnels with pieces of cardboard. Once any possible escape routes have been blocked, the ducklings can be scooped out of the sewer with a pole net (available at any pond supply, sporting goods store, bait shop or pet store in their aquarium department). A pool skimmer can work too.

Be sure to keep all of the ducklings together in a tall cardboard box. Even though the ducklings may be tiny, they can still jump and might escape if the box is not at least two feet tall.

If the mother is still around AND there is a natural source of water in walking distance, the boxed ducklings can slowly be walked to the body of water. (Swimming Pools and Retention Ponds are NOT suitable). Wait for the mother to follow you (she will follow the sound of her peeping ducklings). Gently tip the box – mom will lead them to water.

DO NOT GO INTO THE SEWER after the ducklings without talking with us first.

If you need assistance with the rescue, try your local police or fire department or the local humane society. They might be able to provide assistance sooner than we can.

There are ducklings stuck inside a courtyard
Most likely, the ducklings hatched inside the courtyard. Female ducks will frequently choose to nest inside a courtyard because it is free from most predators. She doesn’t realize that the ducklings will not be able to fly out for 8 WEEKS and will starve well before that occurs.

DO NOT PROVIDE FOOD AND WATER to the ducklings. They have a decreased chance of surviving in the wild if they have become habituated to humans, children and/or pets.

Care should be taken not to scare away the mother. Get organized and work quickly. Corner the ducklings and put them in a LARGE cardboard box (even tiny ducklings can jump high). The mother may fly off, but she will come back. In the meantime, get the ducklings outside of the courtyard by walking through whatever building is containing them. Leave the ducklings IN the box. Wait until the mother returns. She will respond to the sound of their calls. The caller should remain nearby but out of sight at this time. Once the female returns, tip the box away from the courtyard and they’ll follow their mother to the nearest source of water.

If the situation described doesn’t fit your circumstances or if there is no water nearby, please call us for advice.

Geese are nesting on the roof of a building
Leave the birds alone while they’re nesting. Canada Geese are still protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and it is illegal to destroy their nest without a permit. To obtain an egg addling permit, please visit https://epermits.fws.gov/eRCGR/geSI.aspx. Webbed Foot Wildlife can be contracted to perform the addling.

Once the goslings hatch, be prepared with a tall cardboard box and an umbrella before trying to rescue them.

Remember, adult geese can be aggressive when they feel their goslings are in danger.

Always ensure the safety of the rescuer(s)

Two people can easily approach the family: one person will hold an open umbrella to keep the adults away while the other person rounds up the goslings and puts them in a box.

Bring the goslings to the ground floor and let them go. Their parents will collect them quickly and lead them to food and water.

*** be sure not to release them near any sewer grates.

If the situation described doesn’t fit your circumstances or if there is no water nearby, please call us for advice.

There is a duck stuck in my chimney
You are probably dealing with a female wood duck who is searching for a cavity in which to build her nest.

The duck should be removed from the chimney and brought into the clinic as soon as possible for evaluation. Consider methods for capping your chimney to prevent this from occurring in the future. You should also consider putting a nesting box on your property.

Waterfowl – Nesting Behavior of Mallards and Canada Geese
Almost all Mallards and Canada Geese nest within 100 yards of water, on the ground in a shallow depression lined with grasses and down.

They nest between April and June, although it is not uncommon to see ducklings as early as March and as late as August.

A Mallard nest typically includes 6-15 eggs, which are smooth and light buff or green. The female will lay one egg a day until entire clutch is laid. The incubation period is typically 26-29 days, starting when the last egg was laid. The male will desert the female after she has finished laying eggs. The female will stay with her ducklings until they can fly at 7-8 weeks, at which she will leave them to go find her mate.

A Canada Goose nest typically includes 5-7 eggs, which are smooth and cream colored. The goose will lay one egg every day or every other day until the entire clutch is laid. The incubation period is typically 26-29 days, starting when the last egg was laid. The male will remain with the female during incubation and brood rearing. The parent geese will remain with their offspring through their first fall migration and possibly longer.

Female Mallards and Canada Geese will incubate their eggs roughly 23 hours a day. The female will take 2 short breaks a day to go get food and water. It is important that they take these breaks; they help the female map their route to lead their offspring to water. DO NOT leave food or water left near the nest as it will only draw the attention of predators.

Once the eggs have hatched, the parent(s) will lead their offspring to the nearest source of natural water. Ducklings and Goslings are hatch with their eyes open and are fully capable of self feeding. They are well equipped to make the long walk to water.

It is during this initial trip to water that many young waterfowl encounter danger.

If one of these situations arises, please refer to the section on Common Waterfowl Situations and Solutions.

Please remember that we cannot possibly list every situation that you might encounter with injured and orphaned wildlife. While Mallards and Canada Geese are the most common species admitted to Webbed Foot Wildlife, there are other species of waterfowl that nest in our area including mergansers and wood ducks. These ducks are cavity-nesting species and their nests are often unnoticed by the public. It is imperative that if orphaned wood ducklings or mergansers are found they be transported to our clinic immediately for care – they are far more fragile than mallards and Canada geese and have extremely complicated nutritional requirements. Be sure that these birds are secured in a box lined with a towel with a lid and small ventilation holes. They are capable of climbing or jumping out of even a tall box.

Please see the photos section for photographs of ducklings and goslings of different species.

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Birds of Prey – Common Situations and Solutions
There is a bird of prey stuck in an enclosed area (building, warehouse, store or porch.)
It is not unusual for birds to fly through a glass window or screen panel and wind up on your porch. Often, these birds were hunting a small bird or mammal and crashed.

Any bird that has flown through glass should be brought to the clinic for care.

If the bird has torn through a screen, observe carefully. Most of these birds will be okay once out of the porch.

If the bird is on your porch, open doors, pop off any screen or window panels that you can and turn the lights off. If the window panels or screening cannot be removed, cover them quickly and quietly with sheets or blankets. (The windows can be covered on the OUTSIDE of the porch). When left alone, the bird should naturally find its way out of the area. The bird may panic when being watched by humans or pets and could sustain serious injuries. It may take several hours for the bird to leave.

With larger buildings and warehouses, the bird has usually flown into the area in search of food. When scared by people, the bird will fly too high to exit the structure.

During daylight hours, open all available doors and windows, turn out the lights and give the bird several hours of quiet.

Once the bird has flown out on its own, take measures to secure any open areas to avoid re-entry.

Any bird that has been trapped in an area for more than 3 days needs to be brought into the clinic for an evaluation.

There is a bird of prey on the side of the road
Please remember that we will not respond to a call about an injured bird unless it is being supervised.

It is common practice for birds of prey to hunt along highways and it is not unusual to see them on the ground. Do not interrupt a bird that is eating. Birds of prey expend a lot of energy in hunting successfully and they need to eat what they have caught.

If you can safely pull over near the bird (not too close in case it is eating) please observe it for 15-20 minutes. An injured raptor will limp, drag a wing on the ground or might be unable to stand up at all.

If the bird has not flown away during your observation period, approach the bird with purpose, holding a stretched out sheet, towel, sweatshirt or blanket. Ideally, you could approach it with a cardboard box and place the box over the bird.

An injured bird of prey will be easy to catch. A healthy bird of prey will fly away.

There is a bird of prey stuck in netting (golf course or soccer net)
Be sure to wear gloves when trying to dislodge a bird of prey from netting.

The best approach for any entangled bird is to cut the netting around the bird, (while having someone hold the bird securely with a towel) place the bird in a box and bring the bird to our clinic. We will be able to safely remove the netting from the bird and determine whether it can be immediately returned to the wild.

If the netting cannot be cut, have someone hold the bird securely with a towel covering its head. Be careful of the birds’ talons and while holding the legs firmly, try to untangle the bird from the netting. The bird may become stressed during this ordeal, so it’s still a good idea to box it up and bring it to our clinic for evaluation.

There is a baby bird of prey on the ground
Keep in mind that there are many species of raptors (hawks, owls, falcons and vultures) native to Pennsylvania. Webbed Foot Wildlife admits over 12 different species of raptors each year. Young raptors will achieve full size within the first 3 months. Depending on the time of year, you may have found an injured adult raptor that is a member of a smaller species. An adult bird should fly away if healthy. Injured adult raptors need to be handled carefully for your safety. Please refer to the photos section for photographs of different kinds of raptors. If you’re not sure – please call us.

Young raptors will appear downy around their head and body depending on their age. Any young raptor that is bleeding or surrounded by flies needs to be brought to our clinic immediately for care.

Please call us for advice before capturing the bird. It is perfectly normal for certain young raptors to spend some time on the ground. They are still being cared for by their parents and should be left alone. Some birds will need help - call us to help figure out what’s best for the bird you have found.

Birds of prey nesting behavior
Different species of raptors (birds of prey) nest at different times of the year and in different locations. Raptors can nest in trees, tree cavities, on bridges, utility poles and on the ground or in abandoned buildings.

Most raptor nests go completely unnoticed by people and cause no disturbance.

If you think you have a raptor nesting on your property, please send us an email with your location so that we can contribute to the Breeding Bird Atlas.

To help identify the type of bird nesting on your property, and for species-specific nesting information, visit: http://www.enature.com/fieldguides/intermediate.asp?curGroupID=1

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Domestic Waterfowl

Domestic Waterfowl
Do you feed ducks?
Many people have fond childhood memories of going to a local park or pond with their family to connect with nature by feeding the local ducks and geese. White bread, crackers, doughnuts, pizza crusts, cereal, etc. are typically offered to these park inhabitants.

Unfortunately, these foods have no nutritional value, and over time will lead to obesity and malnutrition in flocks of wild waterfowl. Birds can even choke on these inappropriate foods. The ducks and geese get used to being fed by people instead of foraging for their own food. They come to depend on handouts from park visitors, only to find out that the visitors decline significantly during the winter months, leaving the birds without food and without their natural inclination to find food.

During the hot summer months, uneaten foods become moldy and can make the birds sick. The behavior of feeding will cause unnaturally high concentrations of waterfowl on pond. Overpopulated waterfowl communities become susceptible to botulism, a toxin that can be fatal in birds if untreated.

The situation at park ponds where birds are being fed is becoming dire. “Tame” wild waterfowl often starve to death in the winter or become diseased because they do not migrate and have become accustomed to eating foods outside of their normal, healthy diet. Non-migratory birds are increasing all over the country because of human activities. Tame birds living on park ponds are also vulnerable to poaching, an illegal activity where wild birds are captured and killed for food.

In order to keep wild populations of waterfowl wild, please don’t feed the ducks and NEVER FEED BREAD to wild animals.

Do ducks make good pets?
So… you want to get a duck…

Easter is approaching. Your family has decided that they want to buy a pet duckling or gosling. Perhaps you go to a local pet store or a nearby farm or feed store… you come home with a baby duckling or gosling… now what?

Most places that sell ducklings for Easter send the buyer home with very little information on how to care for their new pet. Most vendors are not abiding by current laws pertaining to the sale of waterfowl as novelty pets. (Be sure to ask them if they are aware of humane society laws regarding waterfowl before making a purchase). They may have sent you home with a bag of chicken or game bird feed to get you started, but ducklings have very specific nutritional requirements that are rarely addressed before you make your purchase.

No one has told you that you have just made a commitment that could last for over a decade, or that it is ILLEGAL and CRUEL to abandon a domestic pet on a nearby pond. Even if you have purchased a “wild mallard” from a feed store, it is still considered to be a domestic animal (since it has been raised as a domestic animal), and will NOT survive in the wild.

If you have purchased a domestic duckling or gosling, or if you plan to, you should be prepared to provide for the bird for the rest of its life. This means food, water, shelter, protection from predators and veterinary care. Just like any other pet, make sure you’re buying from a responsible breeder. Pet stores and street vendors tend to have sickly, malnourished and abused birds that they are selling illegally. These birds will not survive long, even in a duck-friendly home.

Here are a few simple tips to ensure the health of your duck or goose:

Don’t park your duck!
According to the Department of Fish and Game, pets released into the wild do not survive for very long. They often starve to death or are killed by predators such as hawks, raccoons, fox, dogs, cats and even humans. Abandoned, domestic geese and ducks compete with native waterfowl species for food and space and can even crossbreed with wild populations. Domestic ducks and geese can also carry diseases that can devastate wild waterfowl.

Domestic ducks and geese cannot fly. They have been bred as non-flyers. They have no way to escape from predators and cannot relocate when their pond freezes or when the food supply runs low.

The reality of classroom hatching projects
Many teachers and schools hatch or raise baby animals in their classroom to teach young students how to respect nature. But often, these projects do not go as planned.

There are differences between wild and domestic birds. Wild ducks, i.e Mallards are commonly seen out in the wild, but can also be purchased as eggs or hatchlings. At eight weeks old, these birds will be fully capable of flight, but having been raised in captivity, will not have developed the necessary skills they need to survive in the wild. These “wild mallards” may also carry parasites and diseases from the hatchery where they were purchased and, if “released,” will go on to transmit these diseases to wild waterfowl. Domestic ducks, i.e. Pekins and Muscovies are classified as food animals. They have been bred for generations to be very large, meat birds. These ducks are NEVER capable of flight and are not suited to survive in the wild.

Egg incubation is a difficult process to begin with, and should be left to professionals. Many of the eggs don’t hatch, and if just one duckling hatches, it will instantly become the class pet and will likely never even realize that it is a duck. Even with a group of ducklings, there’s always the problem of who will care for the birds in the evenings and on the weekends. The more the birds are handled, the friendlier they become.

What will ultimately happen to the friendly birds? Planning a trip to a local body of water to “set the ducks free” will prove to be disappointing, especially if the birds are domestic breeds. The ducks will likely try to follow you back to the bus as they are habituated to humans. In a classroom setting, they did not acquire the skills necessary to survive in the wild. They are used to being fed and will not magically turn into wild ducks just because the school year is over. If they are left behind on a park or creek, they will not survive.

It is extremely difficult to find responsible families to permanently adopt the classroom birds. Most people do not know much about waterfowl, and, even if they have a pond, the likelihood that domestic ducks will survive on an open pond is slim. Hawks, owls, raccoons, fox, coyotes, cats, dogs, snapping turtles: these are all predators of ducks (even when they’re full size). As is true for all pets, they require veterinary care. Most families that adopt classroom ducks do not realize that they are making a commitment to the birds that could last a decade. They need to feed them, protect them from predators and provide them with shelter and medical care. Sadly, most of the birds that hatch in classrooms in the spring do not make it through their first winter.

There are other ways to teach children to respect animals and wildlife. Various organizations offer educational programs for children to learn about native wildlife. The Wissahickon Watershed and the Elmwood Zoo provide a valuable alternative to raising live animals in the classroom. If you still think that a live hatching project is necessary, contact your local 4-H club and make sure the kids in the classroom realize that while 4-H birds will not be abandoned out in the wild, they will likely become part of our food chain.

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Canada Goose

Nuisance Wildlife (situations and solutions)
There are ducks in the pool – they’re making a mess
During the breeding season, mallard ducks will pair up and look for a suitable site to nest. Due to most township regulations, swimming pools must be securely fenced. This helps to protect children but also provides some predator protection for nesting ducks. During the mating season, pairs will separate from a flock and look for some privacy – your swimming pool looks like paradise to them.

If your pool is adequately chlorinated, duck feces will present no health risk to your family and the chlorine doesn’t seem to bother the ducks (who are only visiting for a short time).

The best solution is to spend more time out near your pool and to let your dog out frequently to encourage them to nest elsewhere.

DO NOT feed the ducks at all.

Once the ducks have started to nest, please leave them alone and keep your dog away from them. It is illegal to destroy their nest. They have no intention of raising their ducklings in your backyard. Once hatched, (approximately 28 days after incubation) they will lead them to a natural source of water. Please refer to the section on Common Waterfowl Problems and Solutions for information on ducks nesting by swimming pools.

Something is eating all of our pond fish
The likely culprit is a Great Blue Heron. They seem capable of finding even the smallest of watering holes in search of fish, which makes up the majority of their diet.

There are commercial products available designed to deter herons from ponds. The primary method used is black plastic mesh, which is both unattractive and potentially dangerous to wildlife.

The best strategy for dealing with a local hungry heron is to put a rock ledge over the pond. If you install a protruding flat rock in one area of your pond, the fish will have something to hide underneath when the heron lands. Provide several “hide ledges” for larger ponds. This isn’t a guarantee, but does seem to work.

Dealing with a vulture roost
A colony of roosting vultures can create havoc to personal property. While these birds are interesting to observe, they are quite messy.

There is no need to be fearful of the birds; they are typically not aggressive towards people or pets.

Recent studies are being done on the use of “vulture effigies” to deter large roosts from forming. To execute this tactic, you hang a fake vulture from a second story building or higher. Always ensure your own safety.

Remember, vultures are protected under the migratory bird treaty act and it is ILLEGAL to kill them.

Municipalities can get a permit to acquire a vulture from a taxidermist, but it seems to be just as effective to use a fake vulture.

Fake vultures can be found at Halloween stores or Theatre Prop stores. Here’s just one option: www.seasonalreflections.com.

Please let us know if this method works for you. Send us an email and include your location, number of birds that were roosting prior to the use of an effigy and the number of birds roosting after. Also let us know how long it took.

Geese on my property – how to get rid of them
Do not be fooled by the vast array of commercial products currently available for goose control.

The following things will most likely NOT work:

There is some evidence that wooden cutouts of dogs might help reduce the population of geese, but they have to be moved frequently around the property or else the geese will catch on. Real dogs will help chase geese off your property. For adoption information, please contact your local SPCA.

Geese are attracted to areas with available lawn for grazing. If you cannot tolerate the geese on your lawn, consider planting native grasses or wildflowers. Consult with Geese Peace for more suggestions.

Remember, Canada Geese are protected under the migratory bird treaty act and it is ILLEGAL to kill them.

If you have geese breeding on your property and would like to have their eggs addled (to prevent them from hatching), please contact Webbed Foot Wildlife for more information. We need to be notified BEFORE the geese have started incubating their eggs in order to get the permits required to addle eggs. You can also visit https://epermits.fws.gov/eRCGR/geSI.aspx to obtain a permit to addle them yourself. If you intend to addle eggs yourself, please consult the Humane Society guide: http://www.flightcontrol.com/PDFs/CanadaGooseEggAddlingProtocol04.pdf

Animals living in your house
When you suspect a problem with mammals living inside your house (in the attic, garage, basement or walls,) please call a rehabilitator that works with mammals to discuss your options.

Do not disturb mammals during breeding situation (you might remove adults from your property without realizing that they were caring for babies).

Be careful about calling your local Pest Control. If you do call, be sure to ask the following questions:

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