Birds of the Glebe


By Jeanette Rive

No, it’s not just a duck!

Probably like most people, I thought any duck was a Mallard, our most familiar breed, until I started observing more carefully the amazing variety of ducks we can find close to home.

April and May are peak migration times for birds, and many ducks make Dow’s Lake, the Rideau Canal, the Rideau River and Brewer Pond their temporary home before heading north. But the Mallard spends the summer here. So do Mergansers and the colourful Wood Duck, a painter’s and photographer’s delight. One can never get enough of them. Take a look along the Canal or in Patterson Creek and Brown’s Inlet.

The Wood Duck is a dabbling duck. It feeds on the surface by dabbling its bill in the water or upending in deep water. We’ve all seen the comical sight of Mallards with their tails sticking up out of the water. Other ducks, such as Mergansers, are diving ducks, feeding by diving under water.

Fun fact: dabbling ducks can take off directly from the water; diving ducks need a running start along the water’s surface to take off.

Wood Ducks nest in tree cavities, which can be as high as 65 feet, or in nesting boxes. They don’t mate for life but pair up at the end of winter. Nine to 14 eggs are usually laid; females even lay eggs in each other’s nests. The morning after hatching, the duckling claws its way out of the nest and jumps, or rather tumbles, to the ground (remember the 65 feet!), where its mother leads it to the water. The females will look after the ducklings for five to six weeks. They can fly after about eight or nine weeks. The dramatic plumage is seen only in the males during breeding time. For such a dramatic bird, it doesn’t have a loud quack – it communicates with thin squeaky whistles.

Enjoy the ducks, but please don’t feed bread to them – their systems aren’t built to digest it!

During migration, many songbirds are injured or concussed by flying into glass. For information on what to do with an injured bird or a baby bird which may have fallen out of the nest or been abandoned by its mother, please get in touch with Safewings Ottawa at 613-216-8999. Their website has a lot of information on bird safety and what to do in an emergency.

Jeanette Rive is a Glebe bird enthusiast and Glebe Report proofreader with a lethal eye for error.

Birds of the Glebe

On our never-ending walks to get our exercise during this pandemic, many of us have developed a greater appreciation of the birds in our neighbourhood. Our quieter pandemic streets have allowed us to hear bird songs, and more of us have installed feeders in our gardens.

Luckily, we also have nature in our backyards – both in our urban gardens and in the parks nearby. The Canal, Brown’s Inlet, Patterson Creek, Dow’s Lake, the Arboretum, the Fletcher Wildlife Gardens and the Experimental Farm are gems to be savoured, explored and enjoyed as havens for birds.

Each month for the next while, the Glebe Report will highlight a familiar bird found in the neighbourhood and perhaps introduce you to a new species.

Feel free to send in your bird sightings with photo to

Happy birding!

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