The Wonder Ducks

March 2007 – was a cold winter and the harsh weather compromised food sources and the health of many animals. During bitter cold weather, when many water sources are frozen, ducks are attracted to any other open water, including pools at waste-water treatment plants. This spelled trouble last year for the 480 ducks (mostly Northern Shovelers and Gadwalls) that were found dead in a Denver-area treatment plant’s pool and in a nearby river. The cause of death was most likely hypothermia as the ducks had lost their waterproofing. A foreign substance on their feathers may have prevented these ducks from keeping their feathers in alignment (interlocking) and therefore, their waterproofing.

Thankfully 61 ducks – some in critical condition – were sent to Greenwood. Of the 61 ducks that arrived, 44 survived. Having an experienced Animal Care Manager with previous training with seabirds and waterfowl in oil spill and contaminant response proved essential.

As with all Greenwood’s patients, stress was a major concern for these birds and as always, extreme care was taken to reduce the stress. The coldest and weakest ducks were placed in incubators.  Some of the birds received homeopathic remedies to reduce the stress. Knowing it would be difficult to get 44 ducks washed in a timely manner, Greenwood contacted the International Bird Rescue Research Center in California for help. Indoor warm water pools were constructed. Once the birds were clean and using the warm outdoor pools, their waterproofing returned within a day. This work continued for days, cleaning 15 birds daily.

February 22, 2006 was the first release day for the ducks. The Colorado sun provided a glorious day and a Denver- area release site provided the perfect setting. When the carrier doors were opened, the ducks headed for the water – some waddling, and some exploding out of their cages – flying and swimmin, preening and diving. Off to, once again, join their kind.

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