Ducks go hungry with Wisconsin waterways frozen

In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, Wildlife Of Wisconsin Rehabilitator Susan Theys nurses a starving Goldeneye duck back to health at her home in Cato. Frozen waterways have left some of Wisconsin's ducks with little to eat during what seems to be an unusually cold winter.
In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, Wildlife Of Wisconsin Rehabilitator Susan Theys nurses a starving Goldeneye duck back to health at her home in Cato. Frozen waterways have left some of Wisconsin's ducks with little to eat during what seems to be an unusually cold winter. (AP Photo/Herald-Times Reporter, Sue Pischke)

MANITOWOC (AP) – Frozen waterways have left some of Wisconsin’s ducks with little to eat during what has been an unusually cold winter.

An animal rehabilitation clinic in Cato has taken in more than a dozen hungry birds this winter, HTR Media reported Wednesday. That’s up from only a handful during average winters.

In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, a Greater Scaup duck gets ready to dive for live minnows at the home of Wildlife Of Wisconsin Rehabilitator Susan Theys in Cato. Frozen waterways have left some of Wisconsin's ducks with little to eat during what seems to be an unusually cold winter.
In this Feb. 25, 2014 photo, a Greater Scaup duck gets ready to dive for live minnows at the home of Wildlife Of Wisconsin Rehabilitator Susan Theys in Cato. Frozen waterways have left some of Wisconsin’s ducks with little to eat during what seems to be an unusually cold winter. (AP Photo/Herald-Times Reporter, Sue Pischke)

“They are not having a good winter,” said Jim Knickelbine, executive director of Woodland Dunes Nature Center and Preserve in Two Rivers. “They’re expending more energy trying to find food than they normally do and all the cold weather is causing them to use up their energy reserves. As a result, they’re malnourished.”

Some of the state’s ducks don’t migrate and continue to dive into water for food during winter months. When shallow waters freeze over, the birds usually head to the shores of Lake Michigan to dive for minnows there.

That might be a good plan during most winters, but this year, Lake Michigan is three-quarters frozen.

“What this means is that these ducks have to go into the middle of the lake to reach water,” duck rehabilitator Susan Theys said. “Some of them can’t dive deep enough to get the food and most of it (consisting of minnows and mussels) isn’t in the middle, it’s along the lakeshore.”

Ducks have been found along lakeshores, lying in streets and meandering through towns looking for anything to eat.

“A duck was in the roadway and a woman almost hit it,” Manitowoc police officer Katie Walters said. “It flew and landed on its back and then it flipped itself over and climbed up on a snowbank and just lay there until I picked it up and put it in a pet carrier.”

Theys said her group, Wildlife of Wisconsin, has taken in birds that are underweight and eat 4 or 5 pounds of minnows per day to gain back weight. Wildlife Of Wisconsin and groups like it plump up the birds before returning them to Lake Michigan.

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