When the door opens at your Rancho Coastal Humane Society’s San Diego Wildlife Center at 2380 Camino Vida Roble in Carlsbad, we never know what to expect.
Recently a couple brought us a mallard that they spotted walking in circles in the middle of a road. They weren’t sure what to do. Was it sick? Should they try to catch it? Would it attack them? If they left it there, it probably wouldn’t survive. They had to do something.
Since the bird was not able to fly, it wasn’t hard to catch. Now that it was safe, they brought it to the San Diego Wildlife Center. From what they told us, we knew they made the right choice by bringing the injured bird to us for help.
This was a beautiful, adult, male mallard. He could walk, but he wouldn’t even try to fly. At first glance he looked okay. But when we examined him closer, we realized that there was an emaciated bird under those thick, downy feathers. The initial prognosis was not good, but we don’t give up easily.
We couldn’t find any broken bones. We started his treatment by providing him with heat, hydration, a convalescent diet, and a really comfy place to sleep. It was amazing the difference in him after a few weeks of rest and good nutrition. We moved him to a pen where he could soak in a tub. He loved it! He even made a few test flights when we opened his pen.
We’ve asked him what happened, but his beak is sealed. Here’s our best guess based on decades of experience. In the late summer, when male mallards molt their flight feathers, they can’t fly or get away from predators. Males stay together in clumps. It makes them more vulnerable, but it makes it easier to feed. We think this guy got separated from his group and ended up with no food or safety.
Now this lucky duck is in one of our flight cages, building up his muscles so we can release him. He’s also sporting some pretty impressive new feathers to show off to the ladies once he rejoins them.
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