'Imprinting' Causes Baby Ducklings To Believe That A Man Is Their Mother

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Photo Credit: By Radoslaw Ziomber CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

A man named Rick finally got to experience what Mother's Day feels like this year, thanks to 13 little ducklings that think that he is their mother and follow him around all day. The unusual saga began when the mother of the young chicks disappeared soon after laying the eggs.

To save them, Rick, who will not reveal his last name or location, decided to place them in an incubator. Hence, when the chicks hatched, the first large moving object they saw was Rick and immediately concluded that he was their 'mother'.

While this may seem odd, it is quite common among animals. Known as imprinting, it is a natural biological phenomenon that occurs in newly-born birds and mammals, allowing them to form a bond with their mother as well as providing them with information about their own identity. For birds like ducks, geese and turkeys that start walking as soon as they hatch, the imprint occurs instantly, which is what happened in this case.

Photo Credit: Memozee.com

What's amazing is that researchers have discovered that young birds imprint themselves to the first moving thing they set their eyes on - even if they are inanimate objects. During their study, they found young chicks attaching themselves to gumboots, balls, and even an electric train.

The downside of imprinting is that young animals have a hard time detaching themselves from their adopted 'mother'. That means that they are often unable to return to the wild or socialize with their own species. This is the reason researchers use innovative methods when raising animals in captive breeding programs. At California and Arizona's Condor Recovery Project, the caretakers use hand puppets shaped like condors to raise the chicks, while researchers at the Hetaoping Research and Conservation Center in Western China dress in Panda suits to raise the critically endangered animals in captivity.

Whether these baby ducks will continue following Rick around for the rest of their lives, is anybody's guess. According to his neighbor Mathew Sargent who filmed the video, Rick is planning to keep his young 'kids' around for a while and like any good mother even 'potty train' them in a small section of his yard. Once they get a little older, he plans to take them over to a neighborhood lake where will hopefully learn to mingle with their own kind.

Resources: news.yahoo.com, pbs.org

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362 Comments
  • 18465Friday, October 18, 2019 at 11:40 am
    YAHOO! LOL
    • lucasTuesday, March 26, 2019 at 6:24 am
      I find that ducks look amazing
      • SombodyMonday, March 18, 2019 at 6:48 am
        Cute and cool
        • Rawr ✌Thursday, March 14, 2019 at 6:22 am
          Cutesie! I wish i was in his place 💕
          • MindyMonday, August 27, 2018 at 6:32 am
            aaww
            • AlanaSunday, July 15, 2018 at 12:32 am
              that has happend to me twice at the moment i am raising a baby Muscovy thinks i am the mum his real mum left the nest with his 12 other siblings while he was left in the nest with an egg shell stuck to his head
              • DanielThursday, March 15, 2018 at 9:20 am
                Cool
                • WaffThursday, August 31, 2017 at 6:37 pm
                  Ducks need to think but it's cute sort of
                  • your_neighbor
                    your_neighborFriday, May 26, 2017 at 6:57 am
                    How is this even possible???
                    • PersonThursday, May 25, 2017 at 3:06 pm
                      How do I take care of ducks when they think I'm their mother? I want to be a duckling's mother I mean, who would't?