ARLINGTON -- While Lamar High School students took the TAKS this week, a mama duck and her 12 ducklings barely made a peep.
Spending their days strolling around the school's fine arts courtyard and sleeping under the shrubs, the newborns were oblivious to the whir of activity inside.
But the ducklings' carefree days of playing follow-the-leader and nibbling on food left by school officials appear to be numbered.
When school ends June 3, the peaceful courtyard will become a construction site, meaning the mallard ducklings must find a new home.
"They've got to go," Assistant Principal Kathy Stanfield said."We don't think they'll be able to stay once the construction crews get in here and they start doing what they do."
The ducklings, found Monday, could be moved to another Lamar courtyard that has a butterfly garden and rabbits. But there's no guarantee the mama duck would go along.
Then there's the nagging worry that raccoons could gobble up some of the ducklings. The first year the mother duck made a nest at Lamar, she chose the butterfly courtyard. That year, all but one of the ducklings disappeared, presumably eaten by the hungry critters.
No raccoons have been seen recently, giving the ducklings a chance to live long enough to fly away this summer.
'A fighting chance'
Through the years, Lamar has had its share of wildlife -- foxes, feral cats, rats and the raccoons -- so there's no guarantee the ducks will be left alone. Even though Stanfield believes that the raccoons have moved on, she would prefer not to gamble with the ducklings' fate
"I know all about survival of the fittest," Stanfield said. "I just want to give them a fighting chance."
Ideally, Stanfield would like the ducklings to have a place in the country where they'll have someone to care for them undisturbed if the mama duck balks.
One possibility is the Rogers Wildlife Rehabilitation Center in Hutchins, southeast of Dallas, which receives about 5,000 birds a year.
This time of year, ducks don't give a quack about where they make a nest, said Kathy Rogers, founder and director of the 20-acre center.
"Ducks, especially mallards, make nests around pools in people's back yards, along the service roads of freeways -- there's one that makes a nest at Central Expressway and Royal Lane [in north Dallas] every year," Rogers said. "There's just so many of them, they'll make a nest just about anywhere."
Possible new homes
The center would take the ducklings, but school officials would have to catch them and drive them there. They would stay there until they're old enough to fly, but they wouldn't be doted on as they are by the school staff.
"We have hundreds and hundreds of babies to feed, and some of them have got to be fed every 20 minutes," Rogers said.
Cynthia Miller-Skaggs of Fort Worth, who is on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department's list of wildlife rehabilitators in Tarrant County, also said her phone is ringing regularly this time of year.
This week, Miller-Skaggs received calls about ducks living in a back yard in Arlington and in a pool at another Tarrant County home.
It would be best to leave them alone until they can fly away, but Miller-Skaggs offered to move the ducks to a nearby pond when it's time for them to go.
"Whenever the time comes, I'm here," she said.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698