People often think of puppies, kittens and baby rabbits when they think of cute baby animals. Ducklings definitely fall into that category as well, joining bunnies in the springtime baby collection.
They’re fairly common, too, and most people have had experience with them in one way or another. Thankfully, they’re not being given out at Easter as much as they used to be, as they require care that many people are not prepared to give.
Wild ducks are a staple of parks and ponds, and many a child has spent an evening tossing bread to the birds (though a variety of veggies and seed is better for the duckies).
They may not be owned by anyone, but they’re fairly familiar with humans, and many times people will stop traffic so a momma and her babies can waddle across the road.
But the world also presents many potential dangers to the little balls of fluff. So focused on following mom, they often don’t realize the danger in walking over a grate with large holes or trotting off the edge of a roof.
That was the case for one duck in Germany who’d found the perfect safe place to lay her eggs: On a roof. No predators there, perhaps, but also no safe way down.
Fortunately, Stefan Bröckling came to the rescue. In 2015, Bröckling single-handedly began “Tiernotruf,” an emergency rescue service for animals in sticky situations. He now works with three others, increasing the number of animals they can assist.
He knew he’d have to work quickly and calmly to locate all the baby ducks and corral them without scaring off their mom. The worst scenario, other than having the babies jump from the roof, would be to have the mom abandon her ducklings.
“She’s now stuck in the courtyard with her chicks,” he said. “There’s no food or water, so they could die of thirst. They have no chance of survival outside.”
“Since the mother and chicks are already stressed, the quieter we do this, the greater the chance we’ll get all of them, so the mother won’t fly away and abandon her chicks.”
The first baby he found was all by itself, far from the protection and warmth of its siblings. It was perched inches from the edge of the building, two stories above the next roof below. One wrong move could mean scaring it off the edge.
Bröckling quickly moved from outside, sweeping the chick up in one swift motion. It was 32 degrees Fahrenheit outside, and the baby was hardly moving.
“We have the first chick,” he said. “She’s almost completely frozen.”
He popped her into a heated cage and set off to find the others. He found another by itself, exposed to the elements, and took it to join its sibling.
Then he located the mom. She was crouched under an air conditioning unit on the roof, her huddle of babies next to her. He herded them toward a cage he’d rigged up, and managed to gently secure them.
They were taken to a rescue where they had a cozy pen with a heating lamp and would be able to recover fully before going back out into the wild. To Bröckling, this was just another day risking his safety to protect some animals, but to these ducklings, Bröckling’s help meant the world.
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