And the “World’s Best Mom” award goes to… a female duck at a Minnesota lake. The duck mom was captured by amateur photographer Brent Cizek leading 76 ducklings at Lake Bemidji (approximately 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?”
The enormous duck family was spotted by Cizek earlier, on 27 June, when he was out on the lake. That day, he counted a minimum of 56 ducklings. He returned a few weeks afterward to see if he could find the ducklings again.
Last week, he returned and spotted mama duck and her babies again. He noticed that there were around 20 more ducklings this time.
“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,’” said the photographer.
On Thursday, Cizek posted the photos on social media and received thousands of comments and shares. It wasn’t easy to capture the lively little ducklings, he says. He took at least 50 pictures but a lot of them were not 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 remembers. “Luckily enough, just one picture turned out.”
It isn’t uncommon for large groups of about 20 to 30 ducklings to follow one female duck, even if it’s not their own mother. Sometimes, ducks can lay eggs in other duck’s nests to potentially increase the survival of the ducklings.
Nevertheless, a merganser duck (the one Cizek spotted) can usually only incubate up to 20 eggs at a time. Therefore, Cizek’s experience was definitely a unique one.
This mama duck most likely picked up several ducklings who were separated from their own mothers, scientists believe. Until the babies are big enough to take care of themselves, she will most probably be their babysitter.