Remember the film “The Adventures of Milo and Otis?” It was a story of a dog and a cat who became something no one saw coming—friends. It seemed impossible, but this unlikely pair became besties. But there are animals in real life that have proven to us that interspecies friendship is actually possible! That’s exactly what photographer Laurie Wolf discovered in her backyard in Jupiter, Florida. She had been inspecting the different nesting boxes she and her family had set up. Then, she noticed a mother wood duck moving her egg around, and Laurie was very intrigued by what was happening.
Laurie Wolf and her family thought the duck had relocated the egg because something had raided the nest. The bottom of the pine tree where the nesting box is was littered with egg shells.
A screech owl had moved into the nesting box. But a month later, a duckling appeared inside the box with the owl. Laurie couldn’t believe what she was seeing. The sight of the owl and the duckling was amazing but tough to believe.
She worried because she knew that owls are predatory, so it could have eaten the duckling. To make sure, she reached out to a bird expert. It turns out she had every right to be concerned for the chick.
The duckling was in the hole all by itself again and calling for its parents. When Laurie tried to take action, the duckling jumped out of the nest box and ran towards a nearby pond. It seemed determined not to let itself get caught.
Next thing she knew, the duckling had left the box and headed for the back fence and her neighbor’s pond where the other wood ducks were at. Laurie hasn’t seen the duckling since it left but believes it is back with its family.
According to Christian Artuso, the Manitoba director of Bird Studies Canada, it’s not a commonly document occurrence, but it does happen. He had observed similar behavior in 2005 while studying eastern screech owls.
Wood ducks will lay one or two eggs in someone else’s nest to increase the odds of their offspring surviving against a predatory attack. Artuso has concluded that this happens, but isn’t really sure how often it does, so seeing an example of this phenomenon made him very happy.
Will it see itself as a duck or an owl? One thing is certain; once it saw the owl moving, it undoubtedly thought it was its mommy. Thankfully, the owl saw it as a chick and not as food when it hatched. But that’s nature for you. It never fails to amaze us!