Here’s Why This Mama Merganser Has More Than 50 Ducklings


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.

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Jillian Mock — Audobon

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Good Grammar Is a Matter of Life or Death for Japanese Tits


We are not the only ones bound by the rules of grammar. Birds are too.

These reactions and non-reactions suggest that tits need syntax to make sense of commands. Rather than telling the flock to mob right away, it’s important to educate the birds on the threat first. Similar grammatical logic has been exhibited in other species like the Carolina Chickadee, says Carrie Branch, a PhD candidate in behavioral ecology at the University of Nevada, who was not involved in the study. Though Suzuki’s work does an excellent job furthering our understanding of bird communication, Branch says, it would also be interesting to see if Willow Tits respond to the same remixes.

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Rashmi Shivni — Audubon

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The 2016 Audubon Photography Awards Winners

Green Violetear. Photo: Barbara Driscoll/Audubon Photography Awards

This one is for bird watchers. Amazing photographs from 2016. The 2017 Audobon Photography Awards is still open.

Quick Stats:

Participants: More than 1,700

Images entered: Nearly 7,000

Categories: Amateur, Professional, Fine Art, Youth

Entrants from: 50 states, 6 provinces, District of Columbia

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