Some time ago I dug out a pond on my piece of land in a small rural town in New Zealand. The intention was to attract wild ducks there and maybe have some domestic ducks, which I told all my neighbours.

Almost a year ago a couple of white domestic ducks showed up in the pond. They have been living there since then, occasionally fed by myself. None of my neighbours have any idea where they came from and who the owner could be (at least this is what they are telling me). The pond is rather prominent in the town so most locals now know that the ducks are there, still noone has ever shown up to say they are the owners.

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Can or could I ever legally claim the ducks?

  • 2
    "Claim" as in collect the eggs/feathers/meat? Or as in prevent others from doing the same? This case would be a good place to start looking. May 18, 2018 at 9:15
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    @TimLymington "Claim" as in collect, thought I don't see how having the right to collect would not go together with the right to prevent others, and vice versa.
    – Greendrake
    May 18, 2018 at 9:46
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    How do you know the ducks are owned by someone? Couldn't they be feral?
    – phoog
    May 18, 2018 at 14:35
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    @phoog They could be feral indeed. In the absence of anyone saying "they're mine" you never know. The question is can I declare them mine?
    – Greendrake
    May 18, 2018 at 22:19

1 Answer 1


From the picture, I believe those to be domestic geese rather than ducks. This is not needless pedantry; it is necessary pedantry because the Wildlife Act 1953 classifies geese as "Wildlife not protected" but ducks (relevant species) as "game". If they are game you need to abide by the relevant Fish and Game Council regulations (from a quick look it is legal to shoot them on your property but you need a licence to own and breed them; it seems unlikely anyone would worry about two waterfowl), but if they are geese they are as much, and as little, your property as a coin you found in the garden. There are no identifying marks and you have made a reasonable effort to find the owner, so you can treat them as your own. It is always possible for someone to claim they belong to him and should be returned, but the burden of proof will be on him to prove that these specific birds were concealed from him after escape or that you deliberately enticed them away, which seems hardly worth worrying about.

  • 1
    They really look like ducks, walk like ducks and quack like ducks, so no doubt here. But thanks for the hint re not protected/game.
    – Greendrake
    May 21, 2018 at 5:50
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    No, those aren't geese. Geese are much more powerfully built and have much rougher-looking beaks. Sep 9, 2018 at 15:52

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