A female duck at a Minnesota lake may have just won the “mom of the year” award.
Amateur photographer Brent Cizek snapped stunning images showing a female duck leading 76 ducklings on Lake Bemidji, about 150 miles northwest of Duluth.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better photo opportunity,” Cizek told CBC Radio’s As It Happens. “The photo just makes you question, you know, how is this possible? How did it happen? How is the mom taking care of so many ducks?”
Cizek said he first spotted the massive brood on June 27 while he was out on the lake. He counted at least 56 ducklings that day, and decided to return a few weeks later to see if he could spot them again.
When he saw the mother duck, a common merganser, and her ducklings last week, there were about two dozen more following her.
“It’s hard not to look at her and say OK, you know this is pretty unbelievable. Multiple people are saying, you know, ‘Mom of the year,’” the photographer said.
Cizek posted the photos on social media, garnering thousands of reactions, shares and comments as of Thursday. He told the National Audubon Society it was difficult to capture the photos. He snapped at least 50 pictures, and each time he hoped they would come out clear.
“I was just praying that one was going to turn out sharp because the waves were so strong it was nearly impossible to even keep them in the frame,” he recalled. “Luckily enough, just one picture turned out.”
Big groups of ducklings following one female duck isn’t uncommon. A duck can have between 20 and 30 ducklings following her. Ducks also often lay their eggs in other ducks’ nests possibly to increase chances of their ducklings surviving, the National Audubon Society reported.
However, a merganser can usually only incubate up to 20 eggs — making Cizek’s discovery an “extraordinary sighting,” Yale ornithologist Richard O. Prum told the New York Times.
Scientists believe the mother duck picked up several ducklings who were separated from their own mothers, becoming kind of like an “experience babysitter.” She will likely continuing caring for the ducklings until they are big enough to go off on their own.