The next time you think caring for one or two kids is a headache, just remember this story.
Amateur photographer Brent Cizek was boating on Lake Bemidgi in Minnesota in June when he saw an unusual sight: A mama duck with about 50 ducklings trailing behind her. Despite some choppy waves, he was able to grab a photo, and he later submitted it to the National Audubon Society.
Wildlife photographer @brentcizekphoto recently captured this incredible photo of a Common Merganser mother with an adopted brood of 50+ chicks! Find out why such big brood counts are pretty common for this species: https://t.co/kGqJPYvqM8 pic.twitter.com/nQJG4z9bFr
— Audubon Society (@audubonsociety) July 14, 2018
“I probably shot 50 pictures, and 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,” Cizek told the Audubon Society. “Luckily enough, just one picture turned out.”
If you think that is crazy, Cizek has returned to that same spot since that initial photo and now estimates the mama duck has as many as 76 ducklings in her care. And, lucky for us, he’s been able to grab even more photos:
MAMA MERGANSER! I was able to track down the now famous Lake Bemidji Common Merganser that has an adopted brood of over 76 babies! I love the story that these photos tell.
— Brent Cizek (@brentcizekphoto) July 17, 2018
The photo is making the rounds as bird-watchers around the world have marveled at the sight of a train of ducklings.
RELATED: You’ve got to see this seemingly endless flock of ducks stop traffic:
So, is this duck really a mom to 76 ducklings? In short, no. The duck in the photo is a common merganser (like the type pictured below), which typically lays about a dozen eggs.
The Audubon Society explained that sometimes mergansers will transfer their eggs to other nests, and in some instances, lost or abandoned ducklings can get adopted.
But there is no way that can account for 76 ducklings.
The New York Times wrote about another possible explanation. Female mergansers that live in the same area will often raise their ducklings in a “crèche,” which is like a ducky daycare system. An experienced mother will take care of a large group of ducklings to give other younger mothers a break.
I bet there are some human mothers out there who are wishing they could find an arrangement like that!
But David Rave, an area wildlife manager in the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, told the New York Times that this is the largest crèche he has ever seen.
“That’s a lot,” he told the Times. “I’ve seen crèches up to 35 and 50 often, but 70 — that would be a very big creche.”
Well, if the mama duck ever needs some help with babysitting, I have an idea of where she could get some help.
— Ellis Whitehouse (@E_Whitehouse293) May 21, 2018