FAQS - Water birds

Ducklings - I have seen a Mother duck and ducklings somewhere that is not near water

Ducks often have their young away from their usual pond, sometimes quite a long way away, and often in what seem to be inappropriate places: in back gardens, up trees and on balconies etc.  Once the ducklings are a few days old the mother will try to lead them back to the water.  If this journey is impossible (e.g. nest inside a walled garden) or especially hazardous (due to busy roads, etc) she may need assistance.

If the duck and ducklings are safe where they are, then they will be able to fly off in about 16 – 18 weeks.  Please put down a shallow tray of water, with cut up leafy greens floating on the surface, and also some chick crumb and wheat (from pet shops) for the ducklings to eat. Make sure the water tray is no more than 1” deep as ducklings can drown in anything deeper.

If the ducklings are not safe where they are, then we may need to attempt to move them.  Members of the public are not encouraged to try this themselves, as often it will result in mum flying off and leaving the ducklings abandoned.  Please refer to us, or another centre, for the correct advice, and if a rescue is needed we will arrange it.

Ducklings - I have found some ducklings and there is no sign of the mother

Young ducklings (downy/fluffy, small enough to sit on your hand) NEED a parent.  They cannot regulate their own temperature properly which is why they huddle under mum’s wings to keep warm.  They do not swim well and may become waterlogged and drown in just a few minutes on water.  If they are left wet for more than 5 minutes in cold weather they risk death from hypothermia.   However the mother duck may vanish for periods of time, providing the ducklings don’t look waterlogged then there is no need to panic.  Only if she is gone after dark then they might need moving.  If the mother duck is most definitely gone, then call us or another centre for advice.

Waterbirds ‐ general - I have seen a young waterbird swimming alone

Sometimes one or two young birds get separated from the flock but will be accepted back if the main group can be found.  Watch for a while to see if the rest of the family group returns.  If the family don’t return and you are able to catch the bird it is best to place it in a box with a small bowl of river or pond water until the rest of the family reappears or is found.  If the bird is an orphan, or the family cannot be located, please bring it to your local wildlife rescue.

There is an injured swan / waterbird on local pond / river etc

If you are able, please try and catch the bird.  The best way to do this is to get an old towel or jacket over the bird and bundle it up to prevent escape.   Please then bring it to your local wildlife rescue or contact them so they can arrange for someone to collect it. If the bird is on land, and completely collapsed, then please bring it to your local wildlife rescue.

I have seen a swan / waterbird with fishing line in its beak / tangled in fishing line / plastic

These birds tend to be very wary and difficult to catch, unless the line catches in branches or weeds.  Often, unless someone is watching the bird, it has disappeared by the time help arrives.  If there is nothing wrong with the wings, they will often fly away rather than be rescued. If this is not the case and the bird remains trapped please call your local wildlife rescue for assistance.

I have seen a waterbird that looks unwell

If you think a bird is unwell, please write down all the symptoms you have been able to observe and call your local wildlife rescue for advice. If the bird is refusing food and there are lots of people about with bags of bread, it may simply be full up.

I have found a dead swan

If the swan is ringed it can be reported to the ringing company (usually BTO). Call your local council to let them know about the body and they may send someone out to remove it if needed.

There is a duck caught in the netting on my pond

Please call your local wildlife rescue for advice. They may send out a rescuer if you are unable to free the bird yourself.

(Please see separate FAQ for Herons)

General notes for waterbirds

Swans and geese often float or swim with a foot lying along their backs.  It looks extremely odd but it is quite normal and nothing to worry about.

There is a condition amongst geese called Aeroplane or Angel Wing.  This is where the bird has one wing stuck up at an angle, and looks as though it may be broken.  In fact they are born like this, and can swim, mate and feed perfectly well.  Please call The Wildlife Aid Foundation so that we assist you in identifying whether this is the case or not.

Water birds with broken legs can and do fly away so it’s worth trying to catch/get close to the injured bird before calling The Wildlife Aid Foundation for help.  Unfortunately we have limited resources and need to be sure that the bird will definitely be there before we send out a rescuer.

Some useful telephone numbers:

The Swan Sanctuary (Shepperton): 01932 240790
Swan Rescue (Cobham): 01932 240790 / 07714 292744
Woking Swan Rescue: 07946 869933 / 01483 765108
Swans & Friends Bird Rescue (Redhill): 01737 773712 / 07712 753919
RSPB: 01767 693690