A Pair of Loons in Wisconsin Adopted a Baby Mallard Duck—and the Result Is As Adorable As Expected

Ian Fox/iStock via Getty Images
Ian Fox/iStock via Getty Images

It might be an exaggeration to say that loons and mallards are the Montagues and Capulets of the bird world, but they’re definitely not friends. According to Walter Piper, director of the Loon Project, which monitors loon behavior in northern Wisconsin, loons will chase away any mallards they see on their turf. So it’s all the more surprising that two loon parents have adopted an orphaned baby mallard duck in Oneida County’s Long Lake, reports Smithsonian.com.

Upon investigation, researchers discovered a nearby loon nest with broken shell remnants, suggesting that the loons’ own chick didn’t survive. Loons are traditionally very doting parents, so instinct likely prompted them to turn their parental impulses toward anything they could find as a replacement. Piper says it’s usually a loon orphan, but these empty nesters must have found the mallard first.

Photo by Linda Grenzer

Though loons and mallards have plenty in common, there are several ways in which this oddball family is deviating from the norm. For one, mallards mainly feed on plants and small invertebrates, while loons eat fish. The mallard adoptee has been seen accepting small fish from its mother, but its duck instincts seem to be working, too: It rejects larger fish offered by the male loon. And, as Piper told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, mallard babies don’t usually reap the benefits of two exceedingly attentive parents. Mallard mothers don’t feed their children directly, and mallard fathers don’t really parent at all. The mallard chick is also enjoying sailing around the lake on the backs of its new parents, though at this point it has grown enough to be a pretty heavy burden.

Perhaps the most problematic behavioral difference the mallard duck has exhibited thus far is its lack of instinct when it comes to helping protect the territory from loon intruders. During late summer, single loons hunt for ideal breeding territories and mates. They consider it a good sign if they see a lake with a happy loon couple and a chick, and sometimes they’ll even fight one of the parents so they can take over the family. To prevent this scenario, loon babies will either hide underwater or on the shore when another loon appears overhead, leaving their parents to feign childlessness. The mallard baby, however, basically did the opposite when it spotted another loon above: It swam into the middle of the lake and made a ton of noise. Nothing bad happened right then, but it’s possible that the intruder loon will bookmark the territory and return to usurp the adoptive parents next summer.

Photo by Linda Grenzer

By the end of this summer, though, the baby mallard will have mostly grown up, and it’s likely that it will soon figure out that it’s not a loon. When that happens, says Lori Naumann from the Nongame Wildlife Program of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, it will probably search for (and hopefully find) other mallards and assimilate into their habitat and lifestyle. In the meantime, we’ll patiently wait for Disney to turn the story into a heartwarming family film.

[h/t Smithsonian.com]

Kodak’s New Cameras Don't Just Take Photos—They Also Print Them

Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.
Your Instagram account wishes it had this clout.

Snapping a photo and immediately sharing it on social media is definitely convenient, but there’s still something so satisfying about having the printed photo—like you’re actually holding the memory in your hands. Kodak’s new STEP cameras now offer the best of both worlds.

As its name implies, the Kodak STEP Instant Print Digital Camera, available for $70 on Amazon, lets you take a picture and print it out on that very same device. Not only do you get to skip the irksome process of uploading photos to your computer and printing them on your bulky, non-portable printer (or worse yet, having to wait for your local pharmacy to print them for you), but you never need to bother with ink cartridges or toner, either. The Kodak STEP comes with special 2-inch-by-3-inch printing paper inlaid with color crystals that bring your image to life. There’s also an adhesive layer on the back, so you can easily stick your photos to laptop covers, scrapbooks, or whatever else could use a little adornment.

There's a 10-second self-timer, so you don't have to ask strangers to take your group photos.Kodak

For those of you who want to give your photos some added flair, you might like the Kodak STEP Touch, available for $130 from Amazon. It’s similar to the regular Kodak STEP, but the LCD touch screen allows you to edit your photos before you print them; you can also shoot short videos and even share your content straight to social media.

If you want to print photos from your smartphone gallery, there's the Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer. This portable $80 printer connects to any iOS or Android device with Bluetooth capabilities and can print whatever photos you send to it.

The Kodak STEP Instant Mobile Photo Printer connects to an app that allows you to add filters and other effects to your photos. Kodak

All three Kodak STEP devices come with some of that magical printer paper, but you can order additional refills, too—a 20-sheet set costs $8 on Amazon.

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The Reason Dogs Are Terrified of Thunderstorms—And How You Can Help

The face of a dog who clearly knows that a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
The face of a dog who clearly knows that a hard rain's a-gonna fall.
Charles Deluvio, Unsplash

Deafening thunder can be a little scary even for a full-grown human who knows it’s harmless, so your dog’s terror is understandable. But why exactly do thunderstorms send so many of our pawed pals into a tailspin?

Many dogs are distressed by unexpected loud noises—a condition known as noise aversion, or noise phobia in more severe cases—and sudden thunderclaps fall into that category. What separates a wailing siren or fireworks show from a thunderstorm in a dog's mind, however, is that dogs may actually realize a thunderstorm is coming.

As National Geographic explains, not only can dogs easily see when the sky gets dark and feel when the wind picks up, but they can also perceive the shift in barometric pressure that occurs before a storm. The anxiety of knowing loud noise is on its way may upset your dog as much as the noise itself.

Static electricity could also add to this anxiety, especially for dogs with long and/or thick hair. Tufts University veterinary behaviorist Nicholas Dodman, who also co-founded the Center for Canine Behavior Studies, told National Geographic that a static shock when brushing up against metal may heighten your dog’s agitation during a storm.

It’s difficult to nail down why each dog despises thunderstorms. As Purina points out, one could simply be thrown off by a break from routine, while another may be most troubled by the lightning. In any case, there are ways to help calm your stressed pet.

If your dog’s favorite spot during a storm is in the bathroom, they could be trying to stay near smooth, static-less surfaces for fear of getting shocked. Suiting them up in an anti-static jacket or petting them down with anti-static dryer sheets may help.

You can also make a safe haven for your pup where they’ll be oblivious to signs of a storm. Purina behavior research scientist Ragen T.S. McGowan suggests draping a blanket over their crate, which can help muffle noise. For dogs that don’t use (or like) crates, a cozy room with drawn blinds and a white noise machine can work instead.

Consulting your veterinarian is a good idea, too; if your dog’s thunderstorm-related stress is really causing issues, an anti-anxiety prescription could be the best option.

[h/t National Geographic]