Where Have All the Ducks & Geese Gone?

By: 
Jon LeSage

For those visiting the El Dorado Duck Pond, you’ll be wondering where all the ducks and geese have gone.

You’ll notice that the duck pond, located east of Studebaker Road and south of Willow Street in Long Beach, has been gated off by a construction company. The City of Long Beach launched the project in September and it’s scheduled to take until late 2023 to be completed.

Local residents have been concerned about what’s happened to the ducks and geese that have been regular inhabitants of the duck pond for several years. They’re glad to see that the city has finally gotten around to repairing and cleaning up the dirty pond and the broken sidewalk surrounding it. But nearly all the waterfowl are gone for now.

There are signs posted near the gate entrance of the construction project by City of Long Beach Animal Control in collaboration with the Wildlife Emergency Services, an all-volunteer program. They’re asking park visitors to not feed the birds so that they can be safely captured. Feeding them will keep some of the birds there at the pond, which is scheduled to be drained in the near future. That would mean serious danger for the ducks and geese as the duck pond’s water is drained.

The domestic waterfowl, which includes Graylag Geese, Pekin Duck, Muscovy Duck and Mallards, were relocated to El Dorado Park Area 2 and Area 3 in early October. Those going over to these other sections of the park could see about 90 or more of them near Model Boat Lake in Area 2 of the park, north of Spring St. Another 60 or more of them might be seen close together next to Main Lake in Area 3, north of Wardlow Road.

Could Avian Flu Have Taken Out Some of the Birds?

On Oct. 13, the City of Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services confirmed three cases of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza A H5 (avian flu) in two Canadian geese and one Black-crowned Night-Heron near El Dorado Park.

The city also reported that additional sick and dead wild birds were also found in the area. The virus has previously been detected in birds in California, but the Long Beach cases are the first in Los Angeles County. There have been no statements made about whether the ducks and geese that had been living at the El Dorado Duck Pond have been infected by the avian flu.

The risk of transmission is very low for humans, but it does present a real danger for birds. The avian flu outbreak started in the U.S. in February 2022 and has affected over 47 million wild birds and poultry. Those shopping for turkey for Thanksgiving dinner may feel the impact, as millions of turkeys have been reported to be taken out.

Long Beach City Health Officer Dr. Anissa Davis has advised the public to avoid contact with wild birds, even if they don’t look sick; and to avoid surfaces that may be contaminated with saliva or feces from wild or domestic birds.

Keep your pets away from wild birds and don’t handle sick or injured birds, the health office says. You can report sick and injured wildlife, including birds, to Long Beach Animal Care Services either by phone at (562) 570-7387 or through the Go Long Beach app.

Details About the Duck Pond Cleanup

The project is underway, with the Duck Pond expected to be refilled in September 2023, the habitat restored during October 2023 and the construction competed before the end of that year. The public can access the park, but the parking around the pond is gated off. The city's contractor, Los Angeles Engineering, encourages park patrons to keep children away from the construction areas and activities.

Regular visitors have been concerned about the care and safety of the birds, with about 50 of the ducks and geese unable to fly. Some had been injured while tangled up in fishing line and some had been dumped as domestic fowl that may have temporarily been pets. Visitors have wondered what could end up happening to the fowl, including whether coyotes could take some of them out.

The goal of the project, which is being done in partnership with the Long Beach Water Dept., is to provide a new reclaimed water system to the adjacent golf course reducing the use of potable water. A new system treatment system will be installed that will provide filtration and disinfection of any water distributed through the irrigation system.

Other objectives include repairing leaks and other deficiencies, improving public access and converting the pond into a recycled water reservoir. It will also upgrade current conditions of the degraded walkway surrounding the pond. Measure A, which was approved by voters in 2016, provides much of the funding for the project along with other state and federal funds

The city also says that a qualified biologist was hired to perform regular bird nesting surveys and provide advice and recommendations to the city to ensure the most well-informed decisions. As the water drawdown continues, any remaining wildlife will be moved out of the area and relocated, according to the California Department of Fish & Wildlife Streambed Alteration Agreement.

Jon LeSage is a resident of Long Beach and a veteran business media reporter and editor. You can reach him at jtlesage1@yahoo.com.

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