Duck Nesting On London Balcony Showers Family With Ducklings Twice During Lockdown

Nothing adds a little levity to lockdown quite like a fresh crop of ducklings. Images courtesy of Johanna Kolerski-Bezerra

As COVID-19 plummeted much of the world into a state of lockdown, people found themselves stuck at home wondering what to do. Videos from all over demonstrated the good humor of Earth’s inhabitants in the face of a global pandemic, and even zoos had to get creative in sourcing entertainment for their animals. For one seventh-floor apartment in London, entertainment literally landed on their doorstep as a mother duck decided to lay her eggs in a plant pot on their balcony. When England was once again in lockdown almost a year later, the duck was back.

The story, like something out of a fairytale, unfolded in an apartment block in an urbanized area of London, the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Once home to London’s Olympic and Paralympic venues back in 2012, the area is now known for its neighborhoods, business districts, and schools and universities – not so much for its suitability for baby ducks.

Clearly having not vetted the area (and given little consideration as to how her offspring might navigate their way down from a seventh-story balcony) one duck decided this was her preferred nesting site. Whether the duck from the first lockdown was the same that returned in February 2021 hasn't been scientifically confirmed, but balcony owner Johanna Kolerski-Bezerra believes both to be a duck she named Carmen.

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Having first arrived solo, Carmen returned in 2021 with presumably her partner in tow. Three days in and three eggs could already be seen in the plant pot turned brooding hot spot. “The first time we saw an egg it was a real surprise,” Kolerski-Bezerra told IFLScience. “How can a duck lay an egg on a 7th-floor balcony in a very urbanised area?!

“The second time around was a mixed feeling. We were happy to have her back but dreading the intense cleaning that comes after the ducklings.”

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After sabotaging the fake-leaf screening on the balcony, it seemed Carmen’s nest (complete with 16 eggs) was almost completed. Unfortunately, strong winds in London blew some of the feather nesting material away but Carmen dutifully continued with incubating her brood. Six weeks after first spotting the return of Carmen the duck, the eggs began hatching.

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“The new thing we learnt this year was to call for help,” said Kolerski-Bezerra. “Getting a duck and ducklings off a balcony is hard! Two volunteers from the Swan Sanctuary, Gill & Andy, came and without them we couldn’t have done it. All of us took the duck family to the nearest pond, Waterglade in the East Village.”

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All but one of the ducklings successfully waded out into the water alongside their mother, but one showed signs of needing a little extra help. They are now being cared for alongside other ducklings at the Swan Sanctuary, Shepperton, a charity dedicated to the care and treatment of swans and waterfowl and the only center in England to X-ray and operate on swans.

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Who knows what Carmen has in store for egg-laying season, 2022.

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