If you find one or more ducklings without their mother present, the ducklings may be orphans and needing your help. The first step is to determine whether the mother is nearby. Sometimes the mother duck becomes frightened by a dog or vehicles and flies away from her ducklings. Often, the mother returns shortly afterwards when she feels it is safe. If the ducklings are in a safe location, it is a good idea to just observe them and watch for the return of the mother for approximately an hour. Try to keep the area free from people and animals that would deter the return of the mother.
Please contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice if the ducklings are in an unsafe area or the mother has not returned within an hour. It is possible the mother has been harmed or has moved to another location with a part of her brood. The orphaned ducklings would have to be captured and transported to a wildlife rehabilitator.
Ducklings require their mother to brood them and keep them warm. After the ducklings have been captured, place them in a large container with a soft cloth on the bottom. There are several ways to make a heating source for the ducklings. One way is to use a 60 watt light bulb to direct heat into the box. It is also possible to place a hot water bottle under a soft cloth for the ducklings to snuggle against. Please be aware that hot water bottle will cool off quickly and require frequent changing.
Some ducklings are "sensitive species", which means that they can die from stress. These babies require you to keep them warm, dark, and quiet for survival. Even though they are cute, please do not handle the ducklings and keep them separated from pets and children.
Do not attempt to feed the ducklings anything, inclusive of water, without first seeking advice from a wildlife rehabilitator. It is preferable to just keep the ducklings warm, dark, and quiet.
If the ducklings have been found in a pool, it is important to provide a ramp to help them climb out. Ducklings that remain in the water for more than a few minutes will become hypothermic and can die from the cold. The mother duck can fly out of the pool, but the ducklings require a ramp.
Remember that some ducklings have strong legs for jumping. If you are going to transport the ducklings, make sure the box is secured with a cover. Make sure the container has adequate ventilation so the babies can breathe. Some ducklings, such as wood ducks, require specific requirements in order to be safely transported. Contact a wildlife rehabilitator for advice.
Please review the section on emergency care and transportation for further details. Thank you for caring about orphaned ducklings.