It is summer, and Mother Duck is making a nest. In a clump of reeds near the edge of the pond, Mother Duck finds a hollow place in the ground. She lines it with grass and soft cattail stems.
Mother Duck lays her nine smooth eggs. She plucks soft feathers from her breast to line the nest and protect the eggs.
Inside each egg is a tiny growing duck. It is attached to a bag of thick, yellow liquid called yolk. Yolk is special food for the growing duck.
Mother Duck sits on her eggs for many days and nights. Whenever she leaves the nest, she covers her eggs with a soft blanket of down to hide them and keep them warm.
At last Mother Duck hears the "pip-pip" of her ducklings working to get out of their shells. The last little duckling to break out of its shell is called Dabble.
Baby ducklings peck their way out by using a special egg tooth. Located on the tip of the beak, this egg tooth will fall off later.
Mother Duck protects her new ducklings by rubbing her tummy feathers over them in the nest. Now the ducklings are waterproof. They will stay warm and dry when they swim.
Mother Duck can waterproof her own feathers by combing oil into them with her bill. The oil that she uses comes from a place near her tail.
When ducks rub this oil over their feathers, it is called preening. The oil hardens and the feathers become waxy, allowing the water to roll right off.
While the ducklings are resting in their nest, a skunk comes to the water's edge for a drink. Mother Duck and the ducklings try to stay really still and quiet so the skunk will not notice them.
Mother Duck's spotted brown feathers and the stripes on her ducklings blend in with the tall grasses and reeds.
The ducklings will stay very close to their mother until they can fly. It usually takes about two months before they learn to fly.
Dabble is a special type of duck known as a dabbler duck. She sees Mother Duck taking good care of her brothers and sisters. She knows that her mother will take good care of her, too.
The tiny ducklings are only a few hours old, but they can run. They follow their mother down to the water's edge for their very first swim.
To find out what happens next in "Duckling," go to the next page.