23 ducklings in a row? Duck mama leads long line of babies

23 ducklings in a row? Duck mama leads long line of babies
A long line of ducks follows two adult ducks in south Lake Charles. (Source: Brandi and Michael Cox)
A long line of ducks follows two adult ducks in south Lake Charles. (Source: Brandi and Michael Cox)

Viewers Brandi and Michael Cox sent KPLC a photo of a very long line of ducklings following two adult ducks near the Kingspoint subdivision in Lake Charles. Twenty-three hatchlings are not uncommon, according to Suzy Heck, Heckhaven Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.

They're called Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks, or Mexican Squealers, says Heck. They are common in Mexico and Latin America and whistle instead of quacking. Here's a clearer picture of some from ducks.org:

Below is a video of their call:

So, why are they so far from the water? Heck says the ducks nest in trees. Once the duckling's hatch, the mother jumps out of the tree and waits for the ducklings to do the same. Here's a video of the amazing feat:

Sadly, not all of the ducklings make it and the mama doesn't stick around to wait for it, Heck says. Often the babies get fatigued along the way and rest while walking, and Mama duck doesn't have time to spare and waddles on.

According to ducks.org, typically, whistling ducks hatch about 13 ducklings per season. Ducks.org also says it's normal to see them around the Gulf Coast.

Fun Facts about whistling ducks from ducks.org:

  • There are 8 different species.
  • They are closely related to geese and swans.
  • Males and females look very similar.
  • Both the mother and father are mates for life and they both care for the young.
  • They fly in shapeless formations.
  • The ducks breed in their first year of life.
  • They like to feed in corn and rice fields at night.

Because the birds look so similar, the pair may be mother and father, or two mothers whose babies instinctively followed one another, says Heck.

Heck says if you happen to see the orange-beaked ducks around your home, leave them alone. If you see a duckling has lost its mother, find the mother's path and try to encourage the duck to catch up by walking behind it or in front of it.

If the mother is not around, contact the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries at 337-491-2576.

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