A female duck in Minnesota has gone viral after she was spotted swimming along with an incredible 76 ducklings in tow.
The female common merganser was captured by amateur wildlife photographer Brent Cizek on Lake Bemidji in Minnesota. “I saw a couple Common Mergansers resting on the beach, followed by a Common Merganser mother who has her hands full with an adopted brood of 50+,” he tweeted on June 27.
When he returned to the lake to check on the duck he dubbed “Mama Merganser” he noticed even more ducklings had joined her creche.
“MAMA MERGANSER! I was able to track down the now famous Lake Bemidji Common Merganser that has an adopted brood of over 76 babies!” he tweeted last week.
When the extraordinary creche came to the attention of the National Audubon Society, a non-profit environmental organization, explained that common mergansers lay anywhere from eight to 13 eggs at a time and will often lay their eggs in other females’ nests. They do this to increase their offspring’s chance of survival.
I was able to head out onto the water before sunrise this morning and track down Mama Merganser and her large 70+ brood.
— Brent Cizek (@brentcizekphoto) July 22, 2018
They said that what is likely occurring with this Mama Merganser is that she’s adopted ducklings from inexperienced young mothers or picked up lost ducklings along the way because adult ducks can’t tell which young birds are their own. The ducklings, too, are also unable to differentiate between the adult birds.
The photographer has returned a number of times to the lake and noted that the ducklings are growing up fast.
Spent another morning with the mergansers. They are growing so fast. They continue to venture further out on their own, but as soon as Mama Merganser starts heading somewhere, they all quickly follow suite. Count is still at 70+. pic.twitter.com/MkIRc0wUnZ
— Brent Cizek (@brentcizekphoto) July 23, 2018
“Spent another morning with the mergansers. They are growing so fast. They continue to venture further out on their own, but as soon as Mama Merganser starts heading somewhere, they all quickly follow suit,” he tweeted.
It’s expected the female common merganser will tend to the ducklings for a couple of more weeks before they go off to fend for themselves.
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