There's an unusual crowd at Parkway Mall in Saint John these days.
Close to 100 common mallards have been hanging out on the perimeter of the parking lot in front of the Dollarama.
Carrie Buchanan said she first spotted the birds after this week's first snowstorm.
"I was here on Wednesday after the storm, and the whole parking lot was full of ducks," said Buchanan, who parked to watch the flock with her sister.
But she was a little concerned to see the birds gathered near so many cars.
"I think people need to watch out for them," Buchanan said.
Jennifer Power Scott, who first saw the birds on Thursday, agreed.
"I saw one guy backing out while the ducks were very close to the rear end of his car," Power Scott said.
Someone also, clearly, thought they looked hungry. On Friday morning, the ducks were walking around quacking — accompanied by a few of the usual mall seagulls — as they munched on a pile of birdseed.
"I think they wait around for the feeding," Buchanan said.
Ducks are fine
Longtime birder Jim Wilson, thinks the weather — as well as the availability of tasty birdseed — is why the ducks have left their usual habitat in Marsh Creek.
"We've had a tremendous amount of snow, and pretty cold weather, so some of that open water might have become more restricted and maybe frozen over," Wilson said.
"As they push snow into the marsh, that may have also displaced the birds."
But he said there's little reason to be worried.
"Mallards are very hardy and adaptable," he said. "They can certainly handle the cold. If they needed to migrate in order to eat, they probably would have already done so."
If people feed them, he recommends sunflower seeds, cracked corn, or other grains.
But "if food becomes available, one duck might come, and then others will soon gather," he said.
The bottom line is that the mall mallards will move out when they're good and ready.
"These birds are very mobile," Wilson said. "If they were hard done by, if they didn't have enough food or open water, they could easily fly elsewhere.
"So their life isn't threatened or anything like that."