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Female merganser raising 40 ducklings on Lake Bemidji

A common merganser on Lake Bemidji has taken on at least one other brood of ducklings.

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About 40 ducklings swim behind a female common merganser on Lake Bemidji on Monday evening, June 14, 2021, near Library Park. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)
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BEMIDJI, Minn. — A mother merganser has her wings full on Lake Bemidji.

The female common merganser has taken on at least one other brood of ducklings, which is actually fairly normal. A wildlife photographer captured a merganser with about 75 ducklings in 2018 .

Photographer Brent Cizek captured the image of a merganser with about 50 ducklings, which went viral after the National Audubon Society picked up the story. That merganser eventually took on another two dozen ducklings.

Kenn Kaufman, field editor for the National Audubon Society at the time, said that big brood counts of 50, which is certainly on the high end, are pretty common. Female ducks lay about a dozen eggs and often lay eggs in the nests of other ducks. However, Kaufman said they can only incubate around 20 eggs.

The same case is likely true now with the female merganser having picked up the couple dozen ducklings after they were separated from their mothers on Lake Bemidji.

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The busy mother had her ducklings huddled up on the Lake Bemidji shoreline on Monday evening, June 14, when an excited dog came near and scared them into the water. The normal-looking pile of ducklings seemed to double in count as about 40 emerged from under and near the female merganser.

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A female common merganser rests with her ducklings along the Lake Bemidji shore on Monday evening, June 14, 2021, in Library Park. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Female common mergansers have one brood of eggs each year laying about 6-17 eggs, according to All About Birds. The incubation period is about 28-35 days with only one to two days of nesting once hatched.

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A female common merganser rushes her ducklings in the water after a dog approached on Monday evening, June 14, 2021, in Library Park. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

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One of 40-some ducklings hitches a ride with a female common merganser on Lake Bemidji on Monday evening, June 14, 2021, near Library Park. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

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Female mergansers will choose the next site and it will typically be in a natural cavity or woodpecker hole in a live or dead tree, up to 100 feet off the ground and within a mile of water, according to All About Birds. They nest less frequently in rock crevices, old sheds, chimneys, lighthouses, holes in banks, holes in the ground, hollow logs and burrows.

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A female common merganser and her ducklings swim into Lake Bemidji on Monday evening, June 14, 2021, near Library Park. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

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About 40 ducklings follow a female common merganser on Lake Bemidji on Monday evening, June 14, 2021, near Library Park. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Jillian Gandsey is the Multimedia Editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. She is an Iron Range native and a 2013 graduate of Bemidji State University. Follow Jillian on Twitter and Instagram @jilliangandsey. Contact her at (218) 333-9786, (218) 996-1216 or at jgandsey@bemidjipioneer.com.
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