> Prospect Park Ducklings, Where are they?


After sitting at Lonelyville Coffee Shop on Prospect Park Southwest one day in mid-July with my computer writing for a few hours, I embarked on a walk through the park. Prospect Park is pretty amazing. Designed by the same designers as Central Park, it would be impossible to discover everything unique and special about it. However, the lake is my favorite part to walk along. (I'm sign of Cancer. We gravitate towards water!) And I am always amazed at the way the ducks, Canada geese, pigeons, sparrows, mourning doves, and other birds (many migratory birds come through Prospect Park) co-exist with each other - and people. It never ceases to amaze and inspire me.

This day, however, as I approached the water, I saw something unusual. Two very young ducks or geese -- I wasn't sure which at that point -- on the grass by themselves. They were under a tree on a small patch of grass amongst the tree's extended roots, about 8 feet from the water. Some children were getting precariously close to them. I approached, puzzled, and asked the children to step back.

One was a medium brown color; the other a light grey with some yellow (usually a sign of a baby) on his chest and head. The little grey one was the younger, the follower, and the brown one was clearly the protector of the two.

What was going on here? I'd seen some Canada Geese in Asbury Park a few weeks prior and the mother mirrored every move that the baby geese made. There was no mama in sight.

I went back across the street to Lonelyville to purchase some "duck food" (plain unbuttered popcorn, better than the typical junk food diet of bread, potato chips and the like that the duck and geese get fed - by people) figuring the birds, whatever the story, must be hungry.

It was clear they needed nourishment. They ate the popcorn ravenously. I started making calls to wildlife rehabilitators -- through a network of people I know, I got some other referrals of people to talk to. When I informed the rehabbers of the continuous intervention by people, they suggested I get the ducks nearer to the water. The wildlife rehabber told me they may never have been exposed to water. She feared that they might be "domestic" ducks from their description, purchased from a pet store, grown tired of, and deposited here. If they have never been in water, placed there, they might sink like stones. (eek.)

A man and woman came by, holding fishing poles. They said, "yeah they were here yesterday. The Parks Department was called but they don't do anything. A family picked them up and brought them all the way up onto the lawn." I cringed. Apparently, the Parks department does not intervene in these situations, although I have to say I wondered if in some way that was for the best. Other people came by, concerned, but no one was sure exactly the best thing to do. You wonder when to let nature 'be,' when to intervene.

Nervous to leave but, not knowing what else to do, I departed the park. I returned the next morning with my camera, homemade popcorn, and some trepidation. Had they made it through the night?

I didn't see them where I left them and feared the worse. I looked around a bit more and, then, I saw them. They were in the water. SWIMMING! I was so happy, and so proud. I tracked their progress for that day - Saturday 7/14 - through the morning and went back Sunday morning and found them in a whole other spot which seemed to offer more protection. I was feeling encouraged. They appeared happy with their 'freedom' and seemed to know what to do -- how to be ducks -- even at this young age and without, most likely, being accustomed to being in such a vast environment. I knew there were dangers for them being so young and all, and not looking like the other ducks. I tried to find out more about where they could have come from.

I showed the photos I had taken to some duck rescuers and found out that these two were ducklings. One was identified as a khaki campbell; the other a white bibbed grey swede. These are ducks that are sold in stores and considered "domestic." They don't live in parks. The likely (and only?) saga is that they were abandoned and left there.

Although apparently these ducks are not supposed to be sold, they still are. I was informed that people purchase them and then grow tired of them. They decide -- they'll leave them at the park, what better place for them? Except domestic ducks have a hard time surviving in public ponds. Predators - humans and other animals (dogs, raccoons, etc.) - can get to them. They are bred to not be able to fly long distances so they can not escape or migrate with the other birds or go elsewhere if food becomes lean in one area.

After a flurry of email and phone contact with wildlife and animal rescue people, I received an email from the Catskill Animal Sanctuary: "Heard about your ducks. We may be able to take them. Call our office." That seemed like good news! I went back Monday (July 16) morning around 10 a.m. armed with this information. As I reached the lake, there were no ducks, no pigeons, no geese in sight. This was unusual. There were many Parks workers cleaning up.

I scoured the last spot I saw the baby ducks. Slowly, other ducks, geese, pigeons returned to the area, but no Moe and Larry(thus named because, like the Three Stooges, they were affectionately goofy - and those are the names that came to mind). I started to get nervous. I walked around the entire lake, thinking maybe they moved to another spot. No sighting. Any hope diminished.

It's a mystery where these ducks went. I put flyers up that week with their pictures on it and a caption: Have you seen these Ducklings? Whatever happened to them had to have transpired between Sunday, July 15th and Monday, July 16th by the lake (closest entrance @ Vanderbilt Street and Prospect Park Southwest). Maybe someone else helped them?

The fact that they'd made it through at least three nights had seemed encouraging. They were a foot from the water when I last saw them, resting, by a tree/bushes. It seemed to me if a predator appeared, they might have been able to escape to the water. They were probably not used to being so active and so they may have been very tired and even less on guard.

I did think, witnessing kids up close in the park for hours at a time, that there are some lessons to be learned on how to co-exist with nature in the parks. Do we really want our kids running after ducks and pigeons, scaring them to no end? Throwing hard rolls AT the ducks? Should children be soaring on their bikes by the water into the wildlife's path? Toying with the swans? These are all things I witnessed. I also saw dogs allowed to roam free by the water, without a guardian in sight. A young duck or pigeon, an injured or older or slower one, doesn't have much of a chance. Fishermen and women leave twine that gets entangled around pigeons' feet and most likely ducks as well. Not to mention all the plastic bags that are literally everywhere.

Oh, and bagels, potato chips, cheese doodles that are fed to the ducks and geese and pigeons are basically 'junk food.' It fills them up but contains no nourishment and may actually hurt as it gives them a false of fullness. (Sort of like when we eat white bread.) They need duck food, cracked corn, and popcorn will suffice, but they also need to do their own foraging.

What this situation illustrated for me is that we need an education campaign on how we treat our wildlife friends and how to live with nature.

In the meantime, have you seen Moe or Larry?


P.S. If you click on Gallery, you can see some more pictures of these cuties!

Also, if you have information, email : giveducksachance (at)