This livestream lets you watch 'Momma Mallard' and her nest at a Burlington school

A new livestream set up at a Burlington school allows staff, students and members of the public to watch a mother duck and her eggs, without disturbing them. The principal says the nest offers opportunities for eduction that goes beyond the classroom.

'People can have the toughest days and yet this family … brings a lot of joy:' principal

'Momma Mallard' sits on her nest at the Gary Allan Learning Centres campus in Burlington. Staff have set up a web cam showing a live stream of the duck on her nest. (Gary Allan Learning Centres/YouTube)

The mother mallard sits quietly, her beak tucked under her wing.

As more than a dozen people watched Wednesday morning, she stood and started fluffing her feathers, pulling one or two out and tucking them into the nest for an extra bit of insulation.

Then, she carefully shifted position before wiggling from side to side as she settled back into place.

Beneath her are 11 white eggs waiting to hatch.

Despite the fact as many as 28 people were keeping an eye on the duck, she wasn't disturbed. That's because the nest at the Gary Allan Learning Centre in Burlington was being watched on a livestream.

"It is mesmerizing and it is interesting to watch what she does with the eggs," said principal Andrea Taylor, adding the video has been playing on various screens around the school since the livestream began last week. 

"People can have the toughest days and yet this family, this duck … brings a lot of joy."

More than a decade of ducks

Various broods of ducklings have made the school's courtyard their home for about a decade.

Taylor said they're not sure if it's always the same mother, but they expect multiple mallards have nested there as there have been several clutches of eggs over the course of a single spring.

Staff think it's possible offspring who were born in the courtyard have come back to raise families of their own.

"We're kind of calling her Momma Mallard," she said of the bird that's currently set up shop.

The courtyard offers shelter from predators and a learning tool for students at the centre which serves high school students and adult learners too. The webcam offers a chance for the school community and members of the public to observe the nest up close without frightening the duck family.

It comes with both pros and cons, Taylor said.

For example, on Tuesday a squirrel found its way into the schoolyard and started harassing the mallard.

"A lot of people were calling, concerned," the principal said, adding they had to ask people to stop reaching out.

Ducks have natural defence mechanisms and Taylor said the Momma Mallard was able to fend for her self by hissing at the intruder to scare it off, she said.

"As much as we're watching her we also have to remember she's a wild creature and we can't intervene. We have to learn from watching, not touching."

Local elementary schools have also expressed an interest in coming to sit with the duck and see her up close. That's where the webcam comes in.

It offers a way for people to watch the mallard and learn about how ducks make a nest and keep their eggs warm, all without getting too close. "It's been fun," Taylor added.

A lesson in perseverance and resiliency

The birds have made a splash in the past thanks to viral videos of the momma and her babies being escorted through the school building before jumping into waters of Roseland Creek.

The school hosted a vaccine clinic last year, which meant even more people were able to witness a very special parade.

The tradition typically starts with the mother tapping at a glass door with her beak until somebody notices, Taylor said.

Then the duck walk begins.

These ducklings and their mother waddled through a COVID-19 vaccine clinic to reach a creek

3 years ago
Duration 4:23
A Mallard and her ducklings walked through Gary Allan Learning Centres in Burlington to reach a creek.

The journey to the creek covers about 150 metres, including navigating school hallways.

"In this species you've got to be able to get up and walk and waddle and swim in a short amount of time, so when you look at your own lives as a human, what … can we overcome just like the mallards can?" Taylor asked.

The principal said Momma Mallard and her eggs offer more than the just lessons in biology and a chance to observe wildlife.

Their story brings joy and a glimpse at the bigger picture, too.

"To know that there's all these things going on in the world and yet the simple, necessity of procreation and the next generation of mallards goes on," she said.

"That in itself reflects perseverance and resiliency and those are some of the non-book-learning lessons we can teach students."