Screech owl becomes mother to a tiny duckling when it’s egg landed in her nest

It’s basically a known fact that human beings are total suckers for stories of different animal species bonding. If you’re not into that kind of thing, feel free to click away, but for everyone else, you’re in for a real treat. 

On one very special day, Laurie Wolf, a wildlife photographer and artist, came across something miraculous. In her backyard nesting box was a screech owl raising a tiny duckling as its own. 

The power of motherhood

She first saw the screech owl in her nesting box about a month before realizing that the baby was in fact a duckling. At first, she assumed this tiny mass of soft feathers was a baby owl.

Image: Unsplash | Quentin Dr

Putting aside their differences

Soon after, Laurie realized that this tiny creature was actually a duckling! The baby was a wood duck, to be exact. After doing a little research in National Geographic, she learned that wood ducks have been known to live in harmony with screech owls.

Image: Unsplash | Alexander Sinn

The story goes national

Laurie was shocked and amazed by her finding, and reached out to National Geographic to let them know about the miraculous pair. 

She explained: ““The two of them were just sitting there side by side. It’s not believable. It’s not believable to me to this day. I don’t think I’ll ever experience anything like that in my life again.”

Image: Facebook | Laurie Wolf

Danger zone?

To ensure the duckling’s safety, Laurie contacted a raptor expert, knowing that some owl species were known to eat ducks. The expert instructed Laurie to catch the duckling and transport it to a wildlife sanctuary that offered to care for the tiny creature.

The UK news source Unilad, which published a story on the amazing owl-duckling pair, wrote that Laurie’s attempt at catching the duckling was unsuccessful. 


The origin story

How did this baby duckling arrive in the owl’s nesting box to begin with? It’s believed that the mother wood duck had removed her egg from a box that had been raided by another creature, and carried it to the nesting box for safety. There, the owl who lived in the box hatched the egg and began raising it as her own. 

Image: Facebook | Laurie Wolf

But why bring the egg to a foreign nest?

Because wood ducks are blood parasites, it is not uncommon for mothers to lay their eggs to foreign nests. In fact, other birds of prey like the American Kestrel have also been known to incubate foreign eggs, including the bufflehead duck. 

“You could think of it as not keeping all your eggs in one basket,” explained a Nat Geo scientist. “If you spread your eggs out, then your chances of passing on your genes are increased slightly, especially if you lose your own eggs to a predator.”

Image: Unsplash | Joshua Stitt

We’ve got Mother Nature to thank for this incredible phenomenon

As it turns out, seemingly unlikely pairs like this screech owl and duckling are actually not all that uncommon, though it’s not known exactly how frequently it occurs. Laurie was very lucky to see it happen in her own backyard.

It wasn’t too long after this discovery was made that the duckling, healthy and ready to move, hopped out of the nesting box and bee-lined it to the nearest pond where other wood ducks lived. Thanks to the kind screech owl, the duckling made it through babyhood safely.