Move over, Octomom!
There's a new viral mother in town, and this one happens to be a duck. Bemidji photographer Brent Cizek discovered as much when he snapped this photo:
MAMA MERGANSER! I was able to track down the now famous Lake Bemidji Common Merganser that has an adopted brood of over 76 babies! I love the story that these photos tell.— Brent Cizek (@brentcizekphoto) July 17, 2018
Full gallery: https://t.co/wg8xioJBIG#audubonsociety #minnesota #bemidji #duck pic.twitter.com/c0Jycct4HX
"It was mind blowing,” Cizek told the New York Times. "I didn’t know that a duck could care for that many chicks."
Cizek's photo has since been picked up by the Times, People, and the National Audubon Society.
Merganser hens, like the one Cizek captured earlier this month, typically lay about a dozen eggs, according to the National Audubon Society. While mother ducks have been spotted with broods of up to 30 ducklings, the one shepherding 70-plus on Lake Bemidj is "extraordinary," Yale ornithologist Richard O. Prum tells the Times.
So what the duck is up with the mega-family from northern Minnesota?
Apparently some birds work out a nanny system known as a crèche, David Rave of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources tells the Times. The head caregiver is something of a super-grandma. "I’ve seen crèches up to 35 and 50 often, but 70 -- that would be a very big crèche," Rave says.
Cizek has returned to the lake several times to check on the ducks. New adults come and go, he says, but the 76-deep squad of babies always follows the mom seen in his photo. Aww!
Here's video of the ducklings in action: