Yesterday my daughter and I went to our local Arby's for an early supper. When we went in, we used the side door, but as we were leaving, I decided to go out the front. Not sure why, but later I was really glad that I did. We were walking along the sidewalk toward the parking lot and I heard a strange sound. I told her that I thought a bird had a nest nearby because I could hear "peeping". But it didn't really sound like baby birds. I was looking up as I walked along and suddenly realized that the sound was coming from below me. I looked down and a tiny baby duck came waddling out from under my car! I stood in shock for just a minute, then set my things in the car and tried to catch it.
This little fellow was heck-bent on heading west - maybe he'd heard the advice to "Go west young man" - and waddled straight for Woodward Avenue. Those of you who have been in Muscle Shoals, AL know how busy Woodward is, especially on a Saturday afternoon. For those of you who haven't, just picture any 7 lane street through a small city on a Saturday and you will get the idea. Cars were heading both north and south, and since there are not any traffic lights in this area, most of them were going quite fast. I could not get between the little duck and the street in time, and out he went into the traffic. I was standing on the side of the street, waving my arms like a mad woman and pointing at the little guy, hoping that drivers would at least slow down to see what was happening. I watched him until he crossed 4 lanes, then saw a line of traffic coming down the southbound lanes.
I just could not watch this sweet little bird be killed, so I shouted for my daughter to look away and I turned and walked to the car. She and I were both almost in tears - I will never forget the sight of that tiny little brown and gold baby dodging across all those lanes of traffic. We backed out of the parking space, and as I put the car in drive, she yelled "There it is!" It had made it across SEVEN lanes of busy traffic!!! Unbelievable!!!
There is a small strip mall across Woodward from Arby's, and the little duck was standing on the sidewalk in front of Austin's Shoe Store. We were able to go across the street quite quickly, and I parked in front of the strip mall. By this time, the little fellow was waddling down the sidewalk in front of the various shops. My Little One was begging for me to "save it", so I got out and chased it down the sidewalk. It went around the corner of the building and made tracks - webs? - for the alley behind.
I jumped back in the car and pulled around to the alley, got out again - did I mention that we are in NW Alabama and it is H-O-T?? - and chased it up and down the side of the alley. I would go one way and it would go the other. This went on for several minutes and I finally called to my daughter to come and help me. I had initially made her stay in the car, even though she really wanted to help. So... she came over and we cornered the little guy - who was panting by now - and she just scooped him up! She did in 5 seconds what I'd been trying to do for 5 minutes! Of course she is lower to the ground and much more nimble than I am! :-)
She handed him to me - she wasn't at all sure about holding him at that moment - and we took him back to the car. I was thinking to myself "now what??". I told her to open the trunk to see if we had anything we could safely put him in, and I saw the Rubbermaid tub I use to hold all the "stuff" I carry around - jumper cables, extra water, oil, umbrellas... you get the picture. So we unloaded all the stuff out of the tub and put him down in it. My Little One carries water everywhere she goes, so I wiped out a corner of the tub and poured a little water there, so it could get a sip, and put a clean rag in another corner for it to lie on.
We brought the baby home and put him in the bathtub until I could find a better home. He is a fast little thing, and I did NOT want him getting loose in the house! The Rubbermaid tub had worked well, so I grabbed another one that held some of my daughter's stuffed toys, poured them on my bed and brought the tub to the den. Found a shallow lid to hold some water and a clean cloth to make a "nest". Brought the baby - who I was calling "Lucky" and she had named "Austin" - and placed it in the tub. He went straight for the water and took several long drinks while stomping around it, then proceeded to peep loudly for a little while. He then promptly pooped and began to preen his feathers.
Now of course I was faced with the task of feeding the poor little thing. I knew he had expended many calories on his mad dash across the highway and around the buildings with a crazy woman chasing him. So I - of course - immediately turned to Google to find some answers. He has since eaten quite a bit of cornmeal mixed with water, tiny bits of spinach and lettuce, hulled corn, watermelon, and crushed cat food (he loves that!). He slept all night without a peep (pun intended!) and chirps loudly every time my daughter leaves the room. She is beginning to understand the demands of "motherhood"! She told me this morning that her cat and dog "weren't this much trouble"!! :-)
I have read that ducks and geese imprint on whoever they assume is "Mom", and it seems as though my daughter is who Lucky/Austin has chosen. She is - of course - totally in love with him too.
Since today is Sunday, I can't call a local vet or the local Feed and Seed which sells baby ducks to get any advice on caring for him. We have a cat, so we cannot keep him, but I do not yet know what we will do with him. He is precious and I know she will not give him up easily, but I just could not leave the tiny thing alone to fend for itself.
By the way, I am saying "he", but of course I have no idea if it is male or female. I am somewhat certain that it is a Hybrid Mallard, based on its markings, and that it is less than a week old, based on its size and feathers. He is a pretty little thing, bright eyed and curious. He will snuggle down in your hand and fall asleep quite easily, and seems to be eating well.
Any suggestions on care and feeding would be appreciated. I'm making sure he stays warm and as dry as you can keep a duck. :-) I want to make sure he gets a good home where he can live out his days just enjoying being a duck. I think that after yesterday's adventures, he has earned it! He is definitely one Lucky Duck!