According to Smithsonian Magazine, female common mergansers only lay about 12 eggs at a time, so only a small percentage of the ducklings belonged to the duck in charge.
Bob Duchesne, who writes a birding column for the Bangor Daily News, suggested that this crèche, which is basically a type of ducky daycare system “is unusual but not rare. It is most typical among birds that breed colonially and whose eggs hatch at roughly the same time.”
“Crèching” increases a baby duck’s chances of survival by letting it blend in with a big crowd – there’s strength in numbers, after all.
It’s likely that other mama ducks were out foraging for food during this particular playdate.
David Rave, an area wildlife manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, has suggested that “Mama Merganser” likely has previous experience with ducklings and that’s why the colony chose her for this daunting duty.
While wildlife experts report seeing crèches of up to 50 ducklings, many have expressed surprise that one duck could care for over 70 babies at once.
The chick in charge managed both the group playing in the water as well as those on shore.
Regardless of the explanation behind it, it’s an amazing feat of nature to see this kind of cooperation and organization in such a large group of animals. It’s likely good practice for learning to fly in formation later on.
And it certainly brightened our day to see all those baby ducks lined up in a row behind one super responsible “mama” duck.
Make sure you scroll down below to watch the video of this group in action.
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