Orphaned ducklings find lettuce and love at Huntington Beach Wildlife Center
At this time each year, the Center for the protection of wetlands and wildlife in Huntington Beach is filled with quacks of hundreds of orphaned ducklings during spring ‘baby season’.
In part because of the coronavirus pandemic, this spring has been particularly busy. The center is seeking help from community members to feed and care for more than 500 young birds, said operations manager Debbie Wayns.
“For some reason these ducklings were abandoned by mum, or mum was killed, so these babies are not old enough to survive on their own, so they were brought to us either by the public or by animal control.” , Wayns explained.
More baby mallards are expected soon from Disneyland, which typically drops thousands of them every year to keep them safe at the bustling theme park, Wayns said.
Last year, with the park closed due to the pandemic, the center did not receive any ducklings from Disneyland.
With Disneyland reopening last Friday, Wayns expects to receive trucks of ducklings again.
“The fact that we’re swamped with ducklings right now and don’t even have Disneyland ducks is a little scary,” she laughs.
Wayns partly attributed the influx of birds to the pandemic. People working from home are more likely to notice wild animals and bring them to the center.
Most ducklings are the mallards commonly seen in parks, although rarer varieties sometimes find their way to the center.
Often, Wayns said, members of the public bring wild animals from their backyards, mistakenly believing the animals – say, ducklings in a swimming pool – are in distress.
“If you see mom and ducklings around, leave mom and the ducklings alone,” Wayns said, adding that people should refrain from feeding wild animals. “It’s only cute for two weeks until they start pooping in your pool or pooing in your yard.” And then they have pet ducks!
Ducks can travel up to three miles, Wayns said, and if the mother is still around, the birds are probably fine. Baby animals that are far from their mothers or their natural habitat will have a harder time adjusting to life in nature.
“Their best chance for survival is really in the wild with their families,” she says.
Some animals come to the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center injured or, like ducklings, orphaned. If an animal has visible wounds or blood on it, or if it has been attacked by a pet, it should be treated professionally, according to Wayns.
The mission of the Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center is to rehabilitate, rear, and release animals into the wild.
“If it’s hurt, if there’s any indication it’s hurt or sick, bring it to us by all means – and the sooner the better for it,” she said.
All of these ducklings add to many hungry mouths to feed.
The center posted an appeal on Facebook on Monday, asking for donations of lettuce. Mustard greens, kale, swiss chard and other greens are poured.
“The response has been wonderful,” said volunteer Belinda Shepherd. “It made a huge difference for us. We usually cry for lettuce.
Shepherd, who typically spends a morning or two a week at the center, starts his day with baby ducks – giving them water, chopping greens in a food processor, and cleaning their cages.
“It’s their favorite thing of the day is lettuce,” Shepherd said. “Oh, my God, they love it… they devour it.”
Many people also donated a different type of green.
Wayns said the center received around $ 5,000 on Monday, which would cover around three days of food and care for the animals. The center is asking for more donations to keep the ducklings for about two months that they will spend there, until they are fully feathered and ready to return to the wild.
The chicks are kept in temperature-controlled cages until they graduate from “elementary,” “middle,” and “high school,” with more and more time being spent outdoors and in swimming pools until. ‘until they are acclimatized and can be released, Wayns mentioned.
“We get them from start to finish,” she says.
The center also needs a helping hand. About eight staff and 100 volunteers keep the place alive, caring for thousands of animals every day.
“Volunteers are our lifeline,” Wayns said. “Without them, we wouldn’t be able to do it.”