Owl Raises Duckling After Mistaking The Bird’s Egg For Its Own

Did you hear the one about the owl and a duckling that lived together?

It might sound as though it has come straight from the pages of a story book but the bizarre real-life partnership has been captured by a photographer from Florida in their own back yard. Laurie Wolf, from Jupiter, initially thought an eastern screech owl that lived in a nearby tree had chicks of her own, known as owl hatchlings. Upon closer examination it became clear that the cute yellow bird peeking out next to their nest mate was in fact a little duckling - which the owl was raising as its own.

The two of them were just sitting there side by side,' said Wolf to National Geographic, 'It's not believable. It's not believable to me to this day.'

Initially, Wolf was concerned that the predatory owl might end up eating the wood duck chick and even contacted a bird expert who confirmed her fears. A local wildlife sanctuary agreed to care for the baby bird if she could catch it, but just as she and her husband attempted to capture it, it jumped out of the box and scuttled over towards a nearby pond. She hasn't seen the duckling since.

'I don't think I'll ever experience anything like that in my life again,' says Wolf, who is a wildlife artist and amateur photographer.

The phenomenon is apparently not that uncommon as wood duck birds don't like to lay all their eggs in one place and will often lay them in other bird's nests in the hope that some will hatch and that the genes will enter the next generation.

'It's not commonly documented, but it certainly happens,' said Christian Artuso to National Geographic, who recalled an incident in 2007 when an owl incubated and hatched three wood duck chicks. 'You could think of it as not keeping all your eggs in one basket,' he said. '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. 'We know this occurs, but we really don't know the frequency,' Artuso continued, 'so I was happy to see another example of this'.

Despite the eggs of an owl and a duck looking entirely different, it’s not understood why the parents don't realize that they are helping to incubate a species that is not their own. As for the duckling, it likely survived after making its leap of faith. Wood duck chicks are precocial which means they are able to survive on their own almost from the very start.


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