Make Way for Upper West Side Ducklings

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By Alexandra Waldhorn

With the help from students at P.S. 166 on West 89th Street, five little ducklings made their way from the shade of a schoolyard evergreen bush to a lake in Central Park, near West 100th Street.

Last month, a wild female mallard duck unexpectedly chose to lay six eggs in the school’s Reading Garden, bringing students a rare wildlife education experience.

The mother duck and her ducklings.

After spotting the misplaced duck, the school contacted the Wild Bird Fund for advice on what to feed her as she warmed her eggs for nearly a month. The students, from grades K-5, treated the duck to mealy worms, corn meal, vegetables, cereal and water.

Garo Tekeyan, the school’s science consultant, and James Mitchell, the office administrator, fenced off a nesting area around the bush with grass sod to prevent the eggs from rolling away.

“At another school the duck might not have survived,” said Emily Fano, a parent on the PTA who helped monitor the duck’s progress. “The kids didn’t try to bother her.”

On May 14, the eggs hatched and five fuzzy ducklings tested their wobbly webbed-feet—luckily, on school grounds. But Tekeyan knew the ducklings would need water as quickly as possible.

However, getting to a Central Park basin for a mother duck followed by a line of ducklings is not as simple as it is cute.
So Tekeyan brought them a wading pool and stacked a couple bricks up to its rim to make an easy entry. The students observed quietly and learned about food chains, webs and wetlands. They also scouted out possible habitats for the ducks in Central Park, aware that a schoolyard couldn’t remain their home forever.

Less than a week later, the Wild Bird Fund transported the legion of yellow ducklings in a carrier to their new home in Central Park.

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