Ducking Brilliant!

Caring for Calpurnia, a favorite fowl

Meet Case Number 0061, or as we like to call her, Calpurnia. Calpurnia is a mixed-breed domestic duck found on February 28th by the road near Wissahickon Charter School, where the kindly and compassionate principal called one of our long-time volunteers, East Falls resident and retired teacher Bruce Bowers. Bruce picked the animal up and brought her to us at Philadelphia Metro Wildlife Center. Ostensibly, she had been hit by a car, but there was more to the story than that. 

Calpurnia was emaciated and had dirty greasy feathers that were incapable of keeping her waterproofed. Additionally, she had what we call Bumblefoot, which is infected pressure sores on the bottom of her webbed feet.

Bumblefoot in ducks is usually caused by the animal being housed for long periods in inappropriate, cramped conditions. Was she dumped by an owner who no longer wanted to take care of her? We may never know. She was too weak to stand and was not interested in eating.

She was put on a regimen of antibiotics and tube-feeding a nutritious slurry, along with daily swims in our bathtub, followed by an hour in a warm incubator to allow her to dry her still-compromised feathers. Now she’s regained her strength, developed a taste for waterfowl pellets, and is preening and fixing her damaged feathers.

Why did we bother to help a domestic duck, when we’re a licensed wildlife rehabilitation center? It is true, 99% of what we do is wildlife. However, domestic waterfowl inhabit a gray area between wild and pets. As you may know, for years there have been many mixed breed domestic ducks and geese living free in the Wissahickon Creek outside of Valley Green Inn. As such, they often fall through the cracks, with no other organizations willing to help them when they’re hurt. Since we really dig waterfowl, we are happy to step in.

While it’s ecologically unsound to return Calpurnia to the wild, we will eventually find her a good home on a farm with a pond and caring owners.

Easter Advisory
Should you ever get a duck for a pet? That’s easy – NO! Very few people have the space and conditions required to keep a duck healthy in captivity, and it almost always ends badly. Never, NEVER buy them as Easter pets! And as always, with wildlife (or near-wildlife) questions and concerns, call the Philadelphia Metro Wildlife Center at (267) 416-9453!

About Rick Schubert 3 Articles
Rick Schubert is a Licensed Wildlife Rehabilitator and the Executive Director of the Philadelphia Metro Wildlife Center (PMWC). He has been a wildlife rehabilitator for over 20 years. PMWC is a non-profit, wildlife rehabilitation organization that is staffed by an experienced team that includes an assistant rehabilitator, an education director, two veterinarians and over 60 volunteers. The Center is located at 2815 Township Line Road, Norristown 19403. To get involved with PMWC or report injured wildlife, call 267-416-WILD (9453) or visit

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