August 13, 2019
Researchers with The Loon Project were shocked when they noticed a mother loon carrying a duckling on her back at Long Lake in Wisconsin.
According to The Dodo, the loon couple had a baby that unfortunately did not make it. So when they saw a tiny duckling all alone without his family, they took him in. The duckling didn’t object and happily settled in with his new family.
And because baby loons and ducklings are raised very differently, researchers were unsure how the duckling was getting food.
“We could see that the duckling was healthy and strong — that it continued to grow and thrive,” The Loon Project wrote in a blog. “How, we wondered, was a dabbling duck that evolved to pluck and consume small, squishy invertebrates from the shallows surviving with two parents determined to feed it long, rigid, scaly items captured from the deep?”
Surprisingly, the duckling accepted the scaly items.
But it’s hard to say what will happen to the duckling as he gets older.
“If the duckling behaves as genes dictate, it will soon join others of its species in huge foraging groups that congregate on lakes at this time of year. But it is thoroughly imprinted on its loon parents, not on mallards. If it has lived too long as a loon chick, it might attempt to associate with that species. Even in this worst case scenario, all is not lost, I think. Full grown mallards, even those that evince inappropriate affection for loons, know that they must bolt when a loon comes stalking them.”
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