Taking Social Distancing to a New Level

Mama Duck Lays Egg in Courtyard


Submitted Photo

The eggs are in a patch of grass in the courtyard. They are expected to hatch soon.

While students are not at school, a mama duck has moved into the courtyard. She decided it was the perfect place to build her nest. Biology teachers discovered the duck and her eggs while cleaning up the courtyard just a little over two weeks ago.
“Our biology department takes care of the courtyard and the outdoor classroom,” biology instructor Mr. Sean Cunningham said. “We happened to be out a couple weeks ago to clean up the grass and trim the grasses back. While doing that, this duck flew out of the grass, so we kept going on and we got to a patch of grass that was against the wall of the school and saw a nest. She has 12 eggs in there. She did eventually come back after we got done working in that area. She’s still there.”
Although it is time for ducks to lay their eggs, the biology teachers did not expect this because the duck is not close to the resources she needs. Because of this, seeing the duck and her eggs came as a big surprise to the biology department.
“We were kind of startled at first,” Mr. Cunningham said. “If you think of a duck, you think of it being somewhere that has open water. Our biggest thing was making sure she was taken care of. Mr. Burgett contacted the wildlife resource and they emailed us back and told us to let her be at this time and when the ducklings hatch, give them a call and they’ll come out and take the duck and her ducklings to a different location.” Since the courtyard is completely enclosed, this gave the duck a safe place to lay her eggs without any disturbance. Despite the protection, the duck could cause issues in the future.
“I kind of joke around that she took social distancing to a whole new level,” Mr. Cunningham said. “It’s just extremely odd. The only thing we don’t want to happen is to have her continually come back to that spot because the biggest downfall is that there are no resources. There’s no water sources for them, so it makes it difficult for her to come back later and try to lay eggs. We’re hoping through this whole process that she hatches her eggs.”

Submitted Photo
Mr. Burgett bought supplies so the duck does not need to leave her eggs for a long period of time.

After eggs are laid, it takes 25-29 days for them to hatch. The duck sits on her eggs anywhere from 18-20 hours a day. In order to take care of the duck and her eggs, the biology teachers provided the supplies that she might need.
“We’ve got a kiddie pool out there that is filled with water and we’ve put food out there for her so she doesn’t have to leave and find food, but we don’t want her to be continually reliant on that resource after her eggs hatch,” Mr. Cunningham said. “It’s been a learning process because we’ve never come across something like this before. It’s neat because I’ve gotten to learn something different. Also to have her pick our courtyard makes me feel good because we must have been doing something right for her to want to lay eggs there.”

The courtyard is still used by teachers who are at school, so the biology department had to figure out how to keep the duck undisturbed. Staying away from the duck puts less stress on her.
“We are concerned if she feels threatened by humans or human scent she may abandon the eggs,” Mr. Burgett said. “But it is also important to know that the Mallard duck is protected (not endangered) by various state and federal laws including the federal “Migratory Bird Act”. Therefore we have contacted the “Nebraska Wildlife Recovery” to relocate the ducklings and hopefully mother duck after the eggs hatch. The issue we have in the courtyard is that mother duck can (and does) fly in and out for her food and water. However, when the eggs hatch, because the courtyard is totally enclosed the ducklings will not be able to get out on their own.”
Even though the GHS building remains empty, the courtyard is still occupied. The biology teachers are checking in on the eggs daily to see when they will hatch.