Minnesota wildlife photographer Brent Cizek was returning to shore after spending the day scouting background locations on Lake Bemidji when he spotted a mama Common Merganser (species of large duck) swimming along with a giant brood more than 50 ducklings following dutifully behind. Luckily, Cizek had his camera ready to go and was able to capture stunning photos of this beautiful and unusual sight. Field editor Kenn Kaufman of Audubon offered up some viable theories as to why this mama duck had so many little babies.
The merganser in this picture probably picked up several dozen ducklings that got separated from their mothers. Adult ducks can’t tell which birds are theirs, and lost young birds that have already imprinted on their own mothers will instinctively start following another Common Merganser because she looks like mom.
Since the date of the original photo, the mama merganser picked up another 20+ ducklings as her own, bringing the total to 76.