Northern Wisconsin loon family raising mallard duckling
An abnormal upbringing occurring on a northern Wisconsin lake this summer is getting national attention for the unusual pairing, as a family of loons is currently raising a mallard duckling.
That’s right. One quacks and the other has a majestic call. One dives for fish and the other eats seaweed and other aquatic vegetation. Despite the differences, the adopted duck appears to be thriving according to an article in the National Audubon that accompanied pictures taken by local Loon Project volunteer Linda Grenzer, who is widely known for her amazing loon photos that have also graced the cover of past Loon Appreciation Week covers. Along with her husband Kevin, the Tomahawk couple every spring and fall undertakes often dangerous rescue efforts to save and protect some of the Northwoods most cherished critters including raptors and other animals in need of care.
In the July 12 issue written by Ryan F. Mandelbaum, it talks about how those monitoring the loon nesting site were surprised to find the loons raising the mallard duck after an egg shell was found broken open in their nest.
“A month later, the duckling is still clinging to its adoptive parents, getting fed the occasional fish, resting atop their backs as a loon chick would, and even diving. Though common loons have been seen tending to other waterfowl, this example is a surprising relationship between rival species with vastly different foraging strategies.”
The article goes on to state that the duckling has even attempted to dive underwater like a loon and it is the first example seen of a loon-duckling pairing. Other examples of loons raising other breeds was noted in the article, but those offspring were from among species that dive for fish in adulthood, making the case for what is occurring on a northern Wisconsin lake even that more notable.
The National Audubon article goes on to explain that the duckling will likely grow up to realize it is a mallard and not a common loon.
“It would be very surprising if this duck were to form a notion that a loon was a suitable mate, but your guess is as good as mine,” one expert wrote.
Researchers plan to keep tabs on the family through the summer. Aside from turning up curious behaviors, their monitoring efforts also help further loon conservation. The species is already threatened by boaters and lead tackle, development on shorelines where they build nests, and climate change, which is causing their range to shift northward.
“The diving loon-duck from Wisconsin has defied scientists’ expectations. Who knows what baffling new behaviors it might pick up next,” the article concludes.