Just for Ducks
MDAS’ partnership to provide nest boxes for the California Waterfowl Association’s California Wood Duck Program has been going on for over a dozen years in downtown Walnut Creek.
Wood Duck nest boxes have to be checked every day to determine the success of the hatch, as ducklings are in the box less than 24 hours. They leave to join their mother in the creek below to start feeding, but the hen will not call them out of the box if she thinks there is danger. The ducklings are born feathered and ready to leave the nest within 12 hours of hatching, as they are not fed in the box. They have to jump out of the box to the ground beneath the nest, and then join mom in the creek to start feeding.
The amazing process is shown below, in a sequence of photos taken within less than a minute. First, the mother Wood Duck leaves the box, then perches on a branch near the box and makes modified hatchling-style peeps. The photographer could hear all 12 ducklings inside the box peeping back as they climbed up and out of the box in turn, and jumped in the creek. By 11 am the family had left the nest box area near Creekside and Main in Walnut Creek and had reached the Iron Horse Trail Bridge by Civic Park.
In the 2017 season, Just for Ducks fledged 84 ducklings – 36 ducklings on the Civic Park reach of Walnut Creek, 36 ducklings on San Ramon Creek and 12 ducklings at Heather Farm. Interestingly, we have discovered that a couple of pinches of cayenne pepper inside a box keeps fox squirrels out, leaving them available “just for ducks.”