There's a group of mighty ducks in Minnesota, only they're not coached by Gordon Bombay.
Amateur photographer Brent Cizek captured a photo of a female duck leading 76 ducklings across Lake Bemidji, which is about 150 miles northwest of Duluth, Minnesota.
"(I) couldn't have asked for a better photo opportunity,” Cizek told CBC Radio. "The photo just makes you question, you know, how is this possible? How did it happen? How is the mom taking care of so many ducks?"
He added, "It's hard not to look at her and say OK, you know this is pretty unbelievable. Multiple people are saying, you know, 'Mom of the year.'"
Cizek said he first saw the ducks on June 27. He counted one hen and 56 ducklings. When he returned to the spot weeks later, he saw more than two dozen more ducklings with the leader.
Cizek posted the photo on social media, earning thousands of comments, likes, shares and retweets. He said he snapped more than 50 pictures of the group, Fox News reported.
“I was just praying that one was going to turn out sharp because the waves were so strong it was nearly impossible to even keep them in the frame,” he recalled. “Luckily enough, just one picture turned out.”
Experts told The New York Times the photo represents “an extreme example of a somewhat common phenomenon in nature.”
In many cases, 20 to 30 ducklings will gather, but 70 is a little more uncommon.4 comments on this story
Experts told the Times the ducklings don’t all belong to the mother seen in the photos. Female ducks will often “dump” their eggs in nests of other birds to incubate, a move aimed at spreading offspring and improving their survival rate.
But 70 eggs is still too many.
This hen is likely in charge of a “creche,” in which a bird launches “a day care system” to raise ducklings from multiple mothers, the Times reported.
Female ducks will leave their ducklings with one female, who is older and more experienced, said David Rave, an area wildlife manager who works at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, to the Times.
“She’d be kind of like the great-grandmother,” he said.