Owl Mistakes Duck Egg for Its Own and Ends Up Raising It Anyway

The wild animal world is amazing making us wonder of the miracles of this planet. They can be kind, intelligent, and generous and in some aspects of life they can really outsmart us.

Laurie Wolf, a wildlife artist, who lives in Florida, witnessed an unusual duo in the wilderness not believing that something like that really exists. The duo that lived in her backyard was consisted of an owl and a duckling. She captured the moment on camera and sent it to the National Geographic.

Laurie commented the following to the National Geographic:

The two of them were just sitting there side by side. It’s not believable. It’s not believable to me to this day.”

The first bird that she saw was an Eastern shriek owl that settled inside a home box she has installed in her patio. After a month, she noticed a cushioned thing in the crate with the owl believing that the owl has its own infant. But, surprise, it wasn’t an infant owl, in the home box was a duckling from a wood duck. It seems that the Eastern screech owl had decided to raise the duckling as its own.

She was very surprised and reported the following:

Both of them were simply staying there next to each other. It’s not convincing. It’s not convincing to me right up ’til the present time.” 

Owl Mistakes Duck Egg for Its Own and Ends Up Raising It Anyway

Yet, in nature such things are possible, especially in the case of wood ducks that have been known to live with shriek owls.

Nonetheless, Laurie was afraid for the well-being of the little duckling believing that it may end up as food to the owl. Therefore, she reached to an expert, the local bird expert, asking him if such thing can happen, and she got the confirmation that such thing is quite likely to happen. After that she and her husband contacted a wildlife sanctuary so that they can take the duckling, and take care of it. Once they found a new home for the duckling they went to the backyard to capture it, but to their surprise, the duckling hopped out of the box and headed to a pond, and that was the last time they have seen it.

Laurie is still bewildered of that unexpected duo that lived in her patio. She stated the following:

 “I don’t think I’ll ever experience anything like that in my life again.” 

This phenomenon is nicely explained by the Manitoba director of Bird Studies Canada, Christian Artuso, referring it to “brood parasitism”, a common wood duck bird practice. It seems that the wood duck birds are not very fond of laying all their eggs in one place, and have a habit of laying them in other bird’s nests. They hope that some will be accepted and the eggs will be hatched conveying the genes for the next generation.

Artuso reported the following: “It’s not commonly documented, but it certainly happens.” 

He has encountered many such cases in his career like the incident in 2007 when an owl incubated and hatched three wood duck chicks.

He said: “You could think of it as not keeping all your eggs in one basket. 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.”

According to Artuso no one can state what is happening in the head of the wild owl, but scientists relate this behavior as a supernormal stimuli, meaning that female owls react according to their mother’s instinct and that is nurture of the present egg. They do not wonder from where it came from, it is there in their nest and their job is to hatch it out. Artuso comments the following:

 “The parents might be thinking, ‘Oh my god! This egg is huge!” We’re going to have the best baby in the world!’” 

He adds:

We realize this happens, however, we truly don’t have the foggiest idea about the recurrence. So I was glad to see another case of this.”

Although there is no plausible explanation of what stimulated the owl to keep the duckling, it is still a positive incident in nature where we would like to believe that the owl was happy to adopt its unexpected delivery.

Regarding the duckling that lived in Laurie’s patio, Artuso believes that it may have survived:

Wood duck chicks are precocial, which means they are pretty independent of the get-go. There are also many documented cases of chicks from one brood joining up with those from another brood.”



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