Ducks Over the Falls

Well, not today anyway.

There have been  cases where ducks swimming in foggy conditions have swam to their deaths over the Falls. They unfortunately did not see the danger of the waterfalls ahead.

In 1984 it was reported that over 1000 merganser ducks got disoriented in foggy conditions and were swept over both the American and Horseshoe Falls. They plummeted 150 feet to the drop below. Many were killed instantly and those that survived were left marooned to experience a harrowing eventual death. Hundreds had broken wings or legs and found temporary refuge on the ice below but there was no hope for rescue. The problem was that their rescue was deemed impossible because of the treacherous conditions at the base of the Falls. I remember this vividly. I was so moved by the sight of these poor creatures.

Interestingly, fish do swim right over the falls. And most of them survive when they hit the plunge pool 150 feet below. They are underwater the whole way down, so no problem with that. They are light, pliable and built to withstand the pressure when they hit. Their main problem is if the fall stuns them, they become dinner for the waiting seagulls and turns.

People go over too. Some are daredevils and survive, others are not so lucky. Some fall in by accident like a seven-year old boy in 1960. He went over in just a life jacket and lived. In fact, I believe him and another man to be the only ones not in a protective, specially designed capsule to survive the fall.

And there are those that choose to end their time on earth. I was at the Falls many years back and watched in horror as a man plummeted to his death. People were screaming up river and running along side the rapids when I heard the commotion. I did not have a camera at the time because I was there walking my dog. What a sight and memory.

And if you are brave enough, here is a newscast video, not of the man I saw, but another earlier in 1985. This is almost exactly like I saw it. Watch closely behind the news anchor as the man runs from the shore and jumps into the rapids. This man jumped in and the cameraman captured the whole thing. Sounds of horror and astonishment from the tourists and anchor.

My husband and his friends also found a man dead while walking along a trail at the Gorge as they were returning from a day of  fishing. This man’s death resulted from a fall of about 75 feet over the side of the gorge to the rocks below. It was determined as an apparent suicide. Niagara Falls has its tragedies. A person in these rapids may be dead before they even hit the falls. The rocks you saw in my earlier posts shreds and cuts them like paper I have read.

But ducks on the other hand…..

ride these rapids like it is a fun experience. The water wheels them around and they ride down backwards, like a boat’s bow cutting through the water. But then they get near the brink and paddle furiously back to shore. What a dangerous game they play. The one below is paddling like crazy. He was getting very close as I took his picture from the man bridge.  The ones above are headed to the safety of the ice.

When I first moved to Niagara Falls, I would go and watch the kids feed hundreds of ducks, including domestic ones. I doubt they flew here either.

But then what happened, was a massive duck die off. They would either gorge on too much bread or eat moldy bread. It was then prohibited.

This sign and more information on duck feeding can be found at LiveDucks.

Now you do not see anyone feeding them, plus not as many ducks either.

Eating bread is bad for the ducks health and well-being. Some choke on it too.

When ducks have a diet of bread and junk food, their organs become engorged with fat tissue and the ducks then can die from malnutrition, heart disease, liver problems and other heath related complications.

An overfed duck gets sluggish and can not escape predators. Plus if they rely on a steady food source of human junk food, which they seem to relish, their migratory patterns change. Fat ducks are not agile ducks.

Here is a Falls predator just waiting for a slow duck dinner to waddle by. People dump unwanted pets at the Falls regularly. There is a good size population of cats that must be captured regularly.

Feeding ducks create circumstances where they take up year round residence. This can lead to and encourage overbreeding. They start getting aggressive to one another when populations increase. This is kinda funny to watch. They are so clumsy.

Another problem has been the coins people toss in the water to bring them luck. The zinc found in a penny can kill a duck and the ducks will ingest them while searching the bottom of the creeks and shallow rapids for food. The place above used to have hundreds of ducks waiting for a handout. Now the ducks are in search of food found in their natural habitat.

Different ducks seen in Niagara can be Scoters, Mergansers, Goldeneyes, Buffleheads, and Old Squaws. Mostly I see the Mallards like you see here.

The ducks above are feeding. They are just out of sight to the image below.

About Garden Walk Garden Talk

I love to photograph, paint, draw, design, garden, travel the world, and pass on a few tips and ideas that I learned through experience as a Master Gardener and architect. I am highly trained in my field and enjoy my work each and every day. I garden in Niagara Falls, NY in zone 6-B. Find me at:
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26 Responses to Ducks Over the Falls

  1. Kind of grim, but good info about not feeding ducks wherever you live. Carolyn

  2. Dear Donna, I love looking at your duck pictures, although I don’t want to think too much about the grim bits. Interesting post! P x

    • I know it is sad, for the ducks and the humans, but it happens quite often here. The Falls is both bright and beautiful and dark and grim. There have been estimated to be over 2700 such incidents recorded to date. Many can not be verified because they have never been found after the trip over the falls. They are counted because there were so many witnesses.

  3. Sobering post. I won’t be forgetting that video for awhile. So surreal it’s hard to accept. The ducks are interesting. I make it a point to try to avoid feeding ducks now, and if I do, it’s peas, and only when kids are around. Trips to the duck pond are for pushing around sailboats and racing them; the presence of the ducks are a plus. There’s a big group of them there and they are too fat to migrate, so they remain all winter. I wondered how they survived the subzero temperatures and my husband discovered the answer for me one early morning he went to administer an exam. He found them huddled on top of some steam vents near a large building. They would wander over in the dark and head back to the pond come morning.

  4. lifeshighway says:

    I admit I was not brave enough to watch the video. Thanks for the warning. This is the first time I had ever heard that tidbit about feeding the ducks. I can’t tell you how many times I took my kids to the park to feed the ducks.

    A very sobering post.

  5. debsgarden says:

    A lot to think about regarding duck feeding. Feeding the ducks is a common pastime at a nearby lake, and mostly I see people feeding them bread. Your post is very interesting, though certainly disturbing.

  6. TS says:

    I never realized feeding ducks bread was a bad idea. Thanks for the info. I’ve had ducks and crazy geese chase my kids (when they were little) as soon as they saw the bags of bread we brought to the park. My kids were pretty scared because they were so aggressive, esp. the geese. Great post!

  7. Bom says:

    The deaths are very sad. I’m trying to concentrate on an image of the ducks enjoying the rapids. I hope there are quite a good number that get back to shore.

    • It is fun to watch them go down the last photo I had in my post. I did not stay long enough to get a photo of them doing this. Plus, there were not too many of them there. They bob like a bobbin on a fishing pole when thy slide down. The ones that got near the brink of the Falls, already were on that side of the bridge.

  8. Thanks for the info on duck feeding. Who knew ducks like to live on the “edge” by swimming so near the falls.

    • I think they do this because at any time they can just take off in flight like in my one photo. Another reason is the power authority slows down the falls to one half the water volume in winter, so the rapids are not as furious.

  9. One says:

    Those are fantastic shots of the ducks! It makes sense that we shouldn’t be feeding ducks with junks. It’s good that you mention it here. Most of us think we are doing something good when we feed animals without realizing the harm we cause.

  10. I was torn between shuddering at the watery deaths, human and bird, and being bewitched by your photographs. An amazing place to live near, and clearly never a dull moment. Would hate to find a body though…

    • I can not imagine what my husband and friends went through on the inside. On the outside they put up the macho man facade and called the police. Me, I was in total astonishment seeing a man go over. It is a sight I will never forget and was so eerily similar to the video, only he went in much further up stream. People were running toward me screaming from a ways up the river. I was right about where the news crew were standing when I saw what was happening.

  11. Karen says:

    Donna, I never would have thought the ducks would be foolhardy enough to get so close to the edge as to go over the falls. People yes, but ducks, no! The current is so swift, I suppose by the time they realize it’s too late, there’s no time to fly, and being as windy as you have mentioned, there’s probably air suction to deal with, too.

    What a fascinating place Niagara Falls is, I guess I always thought of it as the classic honeymoon destination, but there’s all sorts of stories and drama there. This whole series is wonderful!

    • Thanks Karen. You are right, so much happens here. Movie scenes are shot, celebrities visit, a lot of good things mostly. They really don’t even publicize much of the bad stuff for the reason of the tourists I guess, but also because it is one of the most popular places to move on too to a higher place with suicide. I can not fathom the thought process. The ones that get the most press are the sensational stories, like the stranded and hurt ducks. There were so many of them it became national news. I just moved here that summer and lived on Grand Island. It also has riverfront view, but I did not personally see the ducks, I followed it on the news. It was too heartbreaking to go to see.

  12. p3chandan says:

    Great post notwithstanding the grim death stories! Fantastic photos, love the Falls series!

    • These were televised stories, three of them national. Anyone tuning in would has seen them. Sometimes if you live in a place, you take the good with the bad. It is not like this all the time, but the news does not always report them either. Plus the Parks Department has made it safer and the police also patrol better. So I have not heard of any lately, that is why the stories all happened a long while ago. Ducks on the other hand, have been reduced in the park substantially, so that probably does not happen as much either.

  13. Alistair says:

    Not light entertainment this time, but blimey, very educational. So when my grand kids want me to take them to the park to feed the ducks I will just have to tell them for very good reason, Donna says no.

  14. Connie says:

    Fascinating! I often wonder if I’m the only one who thinks about (and researches) things like this … then I come here and find that I am not as alone as I think I am. Here, we have a huge problem with Canada Geese. Hoards of geese maintain year-round residence. I remember when I was a kid that spotting a Canada Goose was a rare treat. Now … not so much.

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