Mystery over how mum became covered in engine oil

Staff at the RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre in Norfolk are currently caring for a mother duck who managed to get herself drenched in engine oil.


The duck and her four ducklings were regular visitors to the grounds of Swaffham Veterinary Centre in Tower Meadows, Swaffham.

taff there had even made her a makeshift pool where she could take a dip when she visited, and the family were a regular sight in the area.

However, on Monday, (17 July)  when she waddled over, staff were horrified to see she was drenched from top to bottom with engine oil as well as one of her ducklings.

They called the RSPCA and a driver was sent to collect the family and took them to the RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre where they were washed in a bath of warm water and detergent to remove the oil. It took around 10 minutes for the youngsters and 20 minutes for mum as she was covered in it. They were then  rinsed thoroughly to remove any remaining oil and the detergent and then moved to a recovery room where there is a wall mounted heater and a floor heater to help the birds dry their feathers post wash. Birds can get hypothermic post wash so staff had to help them dry off as quickly as possible then give them fluids to recover.

It is not known how the birds became covered in oil, but there are a number of garages nearby and veterinary staff believe the birds may have accidentally fallen into something.

Following their clean up the family are now being cared for at East Winch, but sadly one of the ducklings is still extremely poorly after ingesting oil and it is not known if they will pull through.

Alison Charles, centre manager said: “It was very sad to see the poor mum covered from head to toe with oil, she literally had it dripping off her beak. While it would appear this has been an accident, we would always urge people to be mindful of how they dispose of and store oil.

“Due to the heavy covering and possible ingestion of oil, two of the ducks will have to be kept in for observation and both may need a second wash. We know the staff at the vets are extremely fond of them and have really missed not seeing the family waddling by as usual, but it may be some time before they can go home.”

Anyone who sees wildlife they think may be in need of help should contact the RSPCA, 24 hours a day, on 0300 1234 999.

Remember to always wear gloves when handling any wild animal, especially oiled wildlife – pollutants like oil can be hazardous. More advice can be found on our website at:

If you would like to help RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre continue rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing wildlife with a donation of just £3, simply text RSPCA3 to 70007‘ (Texts cost £3 + standard network rate).

RSPCA East Winch Wildlife Centre will also be hosting an Open Day on Sunday 23 July from 10am until 4pm.