A photographer in Minnesota recently captured an adorable shot of a Common Merganser followed by dozens of fuzzy babies.
Scientists aren’t sure exactly why ducks do this, but it could effectively serve as a reproductive insurance policy. If a raccoon invades a merganser nest and destroys all the eggs, the female still has more offspring being safely incubated in other nests. “One possibility would be, in a sense, not putting all their eggs in one basket,” Kaufman says.
This behavior doesn’t completely explain Cizek’s photograph, though, because there is a limit to how many eggs one duck can successfully incubate. Female ducks lay about a dozen eggs and can incubate as many as 20, says Kaufman. More than that, and the birds can’t keep all the eggs warm.