BANGOR, Maine — The mallard duck who laid her eggs inside the garden center of Home Depot and caught the attention of thousands from all over the nation, has flown the coop and taken her six ducklings with her.
“Nobody saw any babies,” Larry Crooker, assistant manager at the Stillwater Avenue store, said on Sunday morning.
The duck, whom managers nicknamed Paulette, Rosie or Daffy, depending on who was asked, left in the night. Her empty nest was discovered Saturday morning.
“The duck is gone and the eggs are gone,” Crooker said. “We keep the back door open [and think] she left with the babies.
“There was one egg left in her nest, but it was ice-cold,” he said.
Ducklings usually leave their nest with their mothers once their down is dry, about 13 to 16 hours after hatching, the Delta Waterfowl website states.
Mother ducks “lead their brood to nearby water where ducklings feed themselves,” it states. “Hens usually stay with their broods until they can fly (52-70 days).”
It “would have been a good idea” to have a camera set up to watch the nest, Crooker said in retrospect. “Then we could have watched them hatch.”
As many as 20 people a day visited the store just to see the nesting duck — a number that spiked on May 31 when the Bangor Daily News published a photograph of the duck’s nest surrounded by hostas, impatiens and Miracle-Gro potting mix, and a story with more photos was printed the next day.
The female mallard sat atop her seven eggs around the clock, leaving only once a day for about an hour, store employees have said. The eggs were protected by strips of yellow warning tape and a sign for customers that said, “Please do not disturb the duck.”
Many shoppers stopped to take photos or just peek at nature in progress.
Brenda Hatch, who works in Home Depot’s lawn and garden section, told the Bangor Daily News that she believes the duck was the same one who came around last year and who was caught by store employees, put into a box before she laid eggs and relocated to Bucksport.
The mother duck “laid eggs in the same aisle where we found her last year,” Hatch said in the June 1 article. This year, the store employees tried not to disturb her. “She’s wild.”
Hatch said she fed the duck every morning and brought her water twice a day.
The duck showed up around the second week of May and at first it just walked around until it found a suitable row of shelving to build a nest on, Hatch said.
The story about the nesting duck inside the store spread like wildfire.
“All kinds of people have heard about it,” Crooker said. “One customer drove 400 miles to see the duck and was really upset when he heard they were gone.”
All the store manager could say to the man was, “They’re wild ducks.”
BDN writer Christopher Cousins contributed to this article.