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Owl Mistakes Duck Egg For Its Own And Ends Up Raising It Anyway

The animal world never ceases to amaze me. Although many people don’t view animals as intelligent beings, I find they often outsmart and even out human us. They are not only smart, but also capable of what can only be explained as acts of kindness. A Florida woman discovered an unlikely duo living in her backyard: an owl and a duckling. Laurie Wolf captured the blended family in too-cute-to-bear pictures as proof animals need a friend.

Side By Side

Laurie found the duo living in her Jupiter, Florida backyard. A wildlife artist and amateur photographer, she snapped a picture and sent it to the National Geographic. “The two of them were just sitting there side by side,” she told National Geographic. “It’s not believable. It’s not believable to me to this day.”

Photo: Laurie Wolf

Mama And Baby

When she first spotted them, she assumed it was the owl’s own hatchling that was cuddled up next to it. Upon closer observation, she realized the fluffy little friend was actually a yellow duckling.

The eastern screech owl had chosen to raise the duckling as its own. Once she realized it was an owl and a duckling, she was a little skeptical about the owl’s intentions. She was concerned it might eat the duckling.

To The Rescue

She contacted a local bird expert to see if her fears were valid. They did confirm this was a possibility, so she reached out to a wildlife sanctuary to see if they could take the duckling. They agreed so Laurie went to “save” the duckling.

When Laurie and her husband went to the backyard to capture the fine feathered friend, it hopped out of the box and headed to a pond. That was the last they saw of it. “I don’t think I’ll ever experience anything like that in my life again,” says Laurie.

Brood Parasitism

This isn’t an isolated incident. In fact, it’s the mysteries of nature at work once again. Wood duck birds practice what is called “brood parasitism.” They purposefully place their eggs in the nests of other birds in the hopes of increasing the odds of survival. However, it also can help the wood ducks pass on their genes.

So, perhaps my view it being an act of kindness might be a little off. Just a little I like to think.

Spread The Love

“You could think of it as not keeping all your eggs in one basket,” says Christian Artuso, the Manitoba director of Bird Studies Canada. “If you spread your eggs out, then your chances of passing on your genes are increased slightly, especially if you lose your own eggs to a predator.”

Instant Adoption

Female owls react with their mother’s instinct to nurture the egg instead of wondering where the heck it came from. “The parents might be thinking, ‘Oh my god! This egg is huge!” We’re going to have the best baby in the world!’,” says Artuso. However, truly understanding their motivation is a little hard to call.

Happy Endings

Although the story seems to have a less than happy ending, it actually is all okay. Wood ducks are more than capable of taking care of themselves from a very early age. The duckling is “precocial” meaning it has an instinctive independent nature. And just like the owl was happy to adopt its unexpected delivery, other broods of ducklings are just as happy to welcome a loner duckling into their family. Quack, quack.

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