Single Duck Foster Mom Extraordinaire Appears To Have Adopted At Least 76 Baby Ducklings ????

Amateur wildlife photographer Brent Cizek was blown away back in June when he witnessed a female duck in Minnesota leading a brood of 50 ducklings. 

Cizek was on a trip to Lake Bemidji, 150 miles northwest of Duluth, and was experiencing a rather uneventful day that didn’t warrant anything worth photographing. Spotting the 50 ducklings was a darling discovery, but it was only a primer for the major reveal.

The photographer returned to the lake again later in the month and found that the number of ducklings waddling after their hen had increased to 76. 

Cizek immediately started snapping pictures of the phenomena. Yale University ornithologist Richard O. Prum commented on the photo, saying, “It’s an extraordinary sighting.”

Taking pictures on the choppy water proved to be a challenge. Cizek managed to produce just one usable photograph from his camera roll. But he wondered how the common merganser that is referred to as “Mama” came to lead such a substantial brood.

He told the New York Times:

It kind of compels you just to look and wonder: How?

How did this happen? How is this mom taking care of all of these ducklings? She just looks really proud and stoic in the photo.

While such sightings are not uncommon, the number of ducks in a row rarely exceed 20 or 30. So are all the ducklings Mama’s? Not at all. The National Audubon Society says that female mergansers can lay up to 12 eggs, but they don’t necessarily incubate their own eggs. 

Other female mergansers leave their eggs in other nests to spread out their offspring and increase their chances of survival. 

According to Prum, it’s impossible for one merganser to incubate all those eggs. 

It’s impossible for this individual to have incubated, you know, 50 eggs. That is really too much.

Cizek returns to the lake to document the development of Mama and her brood. And though he’s spotted other adult ducks in the mix, all the ducklings follow Mama whenever she splits off from the group. 

Everybody is really just amazed. Everybody keeps saying, ‘Mom of the Year.’

Twitter couldn’t get enough of the photo with the long line of cuteness.

It’s going to be a sad day for the photographer when the ducks eventually migrate.

H/T – YouTube, NYtimes, Twitter