An owl has raised a duckling, taking it under her wings after mistaking the bird’s egg as one of her own.
Wildlife artist and amateur photographer Laurie Wolf from Jupiter, Florida, noticed an eastern screech owl had moved into a nest box in her backyard last month.
Checking in recently, Wolf noticed something fluffy in the box with the owl, so suspected it was a hatchling.
Taking a closer look, Laurie was shocked that the baby was a yellow and black duckling which the owl was raising.
Concerned that the predatory owl might eat the duck chick, Laurie contacted a bird expert who said she was right to be fearful.
A local wildlife sanctuary agreed to look after the duckling if Wolf could catch it.
However, as she attempted to capture the bird, it jumped out of the nest box and ran over to a nearby pond never to be seen again.
Sharing an update on her Facebook page, Laurie wrote:
A bit later, the baby duck was in the hole by itself, calling for the parents. We believe they heard each other because it suddenly left the box and made a beeline for the back fence and our neighbour’s pond where the woodies have been hanging out.
Also we had seen a female wood duck – about three or four weeks ago, remove a duck egg from a box that had been raided by something, and fly off toward this box with it.
We lost it in the trees and didn’t want to disturb it. But we believe she put it in this box and the owl hatched it.
According to Christian Artuso, the Manitoba director of Bird Studies Canada, there are records of wood ducks living with eastern screech owls.
He told National Geographic ‘it’s not commonly documented, but it certainly happens’, observing himself a female owl who hatched three wood duck chicks in 2005.
Artuso said wood ducks practice ‘brood parasitism’, which means parent ducks will sometimes lay eggs in someone else’s nest, which could belong to another species.