The young of wild precocial birds are much less likely to be found in need of help than those of altricial birds. Two common exceptions are Canada geese and Mallard ducks. In recent years both species have become more domesticated and now regularly live and breed close to human habitation. Often they choose poor locations for nesting, such as under residential shrubbery, near backyard swimming pools, in office building atriums and courtyards, and even on rooftops.
Ducklings and goslings that hatch in such places face insurmountable obstacles and seldom survive. We strongly urge that you discourage ducks and geese from nesting in such inappropriate locations in the first place. If chased off early in the process, they will seek another, and with luck, more suitable nest site.
Ducklings often become separated from their mother on the (sometimes long) walk from the nest site to water. If you find unattended ducklings or goslings, remember that even though they seem well developed, they need parental care for a certain period of time and cannot survive on their own at this point. Don't just take them to the nearest body of water and leave them there. Gather them up, put them in a box, and keep them warm.
Orphaned ducklings tend to run around and peep a lot. Sometimes people assume that this means they're "happy." Just the opposite is true — they are panicky and extremely stressed and are calling for their mother. Put one or two rolled up towels in the box for them to snuggle up next to. If you have just one duckling, a small mirror may help to calm it.
If you can't get to a rehabber right away, offer a small, shallow bowl of drinking water — no swimming yet. Sprinkle some finely ground dry dog food in the box for them to peck at. For goslings, the advice is the same, except offer fresh grass clippings to eat along with the finely ground dry dog food. And of course, get help ASAP.
Next: Injured Birds