Wednesday 22 November 2017

What's the quack... ducklings bring city to halt

A woman safely ushers the ducks across to St Stephen's Green in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke
A woman safely ushers the ducks across to St Stephen's Green in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Tom Burke

Kevin Keane

TRAFFIC screeched to a halt, cameras were pulled from bags and gardai kept a cheering and applauding crowd at bay.

But the seven VIPs who caused the impromptu closure of Dublin's Kildare Street and St Stephen's Green yesterday appeared oblivious to the drama that was unfolded around them.

It's not that they were world-weary celebrities but rather that they were freshly hatched Mallard ducklings.

From a secret location somewhere behind Government Buildings yesterday the six ducklings and their mother began the short but dangerous journey to St Stephen's Green.

Delighted onlookers watched as the ducks waddled up Kildare Street, oblivious to the dangers posed from pedestrians, buses and cars. But they need not have worried.

A garda motorcycle officer stopped traffic while one particularly committed member of the public took it upon herself to keep the public at bay. The woman ordered onlookers to keep their distance as the ducks headed south to the Green.

Niall Hatch, from BirdWatch Ireland, said the ducks would have only hatched from their eggs minutes before.

"At this time of year it's not unusual for female ducks to lead their ducklings across roads. People often associate ducks with water but often they tend to nest away from water. She wants to stay away from other ducks, particularly from the males because they are quite aggressive at this time of year, so she tends to nest in places like gardens or leaves," Mr Hatch said.

"The ducklings can walk around as soon as they hatch and she was leading them to water. Ducks are quite unique among Irish birds in that the parents never feed the chicks, the chicks feed themselves from the very first day," he added.

"The chicks are focused on following their mother, they will follow her wherever they go. They would have no idea what a car is and wouldn't associate humans with danger."

To the applause of onlookers, the ducks eventually made it to St Stephen's Green, where they promptly disappeared.

"They'll go in to the Green and stay around in the water. They are quite advanced for baby birds and they feed themselves on pond weed and algae."

"They grow very quickly, within the space of three or four weeks they go from being egg sized to being about fully grown," Mr Hatch said.

Irish Independent

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