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Southwest Japan bakery a sitting duck as baby birds plunge to the ground

Ducklings that fell to the ground in front of a bakery in Fukuoka's Chuo Ward are seen in a cardboard box on May 28, 2020. (Mainichi/Nanami Otsubo)
An apartment building, where ducklings have been seen falling to the ground, is seen in this photo taken in Fukuoka's Chuo Ward on May 28, 2020. (Mainichi/Nanami Otsubo)

FUKUOKA -- It's raining ducklings at a bakery in the Tenjin downtown area of this southwestern Japan city, where workers have stumbled upon at least 21 ducklings that have plunged to the ground this year.

The bakery is located on the first floor of a 17-story apartment, and a shop employee has witnessed some baby birds plunging from the parking lot on the third and fourth floors. But the details on the incidents remain unknown. Confused yet ready to protect the animals, bakery workers and apartment officials have taken the birds into custody and transferred some of them to the city's zoo.

"We are so confused as to how they (ducklings) climb up to the third floor," said Takeo Harada, store manager of the bakery Brot Land, as he looked up at the parking lot on May 28. The bakery opened eight years ago, and workers have stumbled across fallen ducklings in front of the shop from about five years ago. He says only one baby duck was found in 2019.

On May 28, employees spotted eight ducklings. Another eight were found on the ground on April 7 and five were discovered on May 26, bringing the total to 21. Unfortunately, some baby ducks have died from their plunge.

Workers from a company that manages the apartment building have placed the found ducklings in cardboard boxes as there is a danger that the babies will be eaten by predators including crows and cats if they are left there.

Employees found a wild duck, which looked like the parent of the babies found on April 7 and May 26, along a river about 50 meters from the apartment building. They say the ducklings were released near the wild duck and followed it into the water. The babies found on May 28 seemed despondent, as they could have lost their parents, and workers transferred them to a city zoo. The zoo says it will announce when the ducklings are ready to go on exhibit.

The third and fourth floors, which seem to be around 7-10 meters above the ground, are connected to the ground floor with a slope for vehicles. Some people have even spotted parent ducks carrying babies on their backs nearby. The parking lot has shrubs growing near the outer walls.

Kitakyushu Museum of Natural History and Human History curator Toru Nakahara, who is well acquainted with the ecology of wild birds, says ducks and their ducklings could be using the area for nesting to protect them from predators on the ground.

On the mystery of the falling ducks, he said, "Parent ducks can easily fly up, but it's possible that families of ducks are walking together to the upper floors. Baby ducks display a collective behavior, so if one falls, others might follow."

(Japanese original by Nanami Otsubo, Kyushu News Department)

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