AUSTIN (KXAN) – Mieka Davenport was headed Saturday to her local H-E-B in Cedar Park when she spotted two black-bellied whistling ducks in the parking lot. 

“There’s no water or anything around, so they were kind of out of place,” Davenport said. “We were curious as to what they were doing because they seemed a little distressed.”

Davenport is a self-described “crazy bird lady,” so she wanted to figure out why the ducks were behaving abnormally. She noticed a blighted tree with a hole in the center. When she approached the tree to look inside, the ducks began frantically quacking. 

“And sure enough, [there was] a whole bunch of eggs – 14, 15 or more eggs,” Davenport said. “I was very concerned because they’re not going to make it in a parking lot [and] there’s no water.”

And, even more concerning, she said there was a marker on the tree, indicating it would be removed or trimmed.

Davenport contacted Austin Wildlife Rescue, which advised her to wait a couple more weeks before removing the eggs so they could continue to develop. Hayley Hudnall of Austin Wildlife Rescue confirmed it is important to leave eggs to hatch with their mother so she can lead them to water. She said removing eggs from a nest may lead to more harm than good, even if the nest location does not seem ideal for newborn ducklings.

Further, Davenport contacted the H-E-B manager, who said it had nothing to do with the tree removal. 

Mieka Davenport discovered around 15 eggs in a tree marked to be removed in an H-E-B parking lot (photo courtesy: Mieka Davenport)
Mieka Davenport discovered around 15 eggs in a tree marked to be removed in an H-E-B parking lot (photo courtesy: Mieka Davenport)

“They want to buy these eggs some time, because they have a better rate of survival if they’re left there to be tended by their parents,” she said. “Right now, the steps are just kind of in limbo. Because no one knows that the tree is going to get chopped down.”

The black-bellied whistling duck is a year-round resident of Texas, found all over the state. While they live in other southern U.S. states, Texas is their primary breeding ground. 

The duck’s population is stable, and since 1983, hunters are permitted to kill them legally. Still, it is illegal to destroy or tamper with an egg-filled nest, according to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918

“I’m always trying to save the birds,” Davenport said. “I’m gonna just have to stay on top of it to try to make sure that they get a chance.”

KXAN reached out to H-E-B and city officials in Cedar Park. Cedar Park said the tree is on private property and it has no control over the removal.

A property manager for the shopping plaza told KXAN after the February storm, many trees were taped from trimming to ensure trimming.

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“I have informed our Arborist of the nest and asked them to hold on all trimming for this tree until the ducks hatch. They have acknowledged and will refrain from trimming,” Leigh Shaw said.