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Conservation group finds new home for orphan duckling found near Saint John River

A common goldeneye duckling is shown in a nest box in Fredericton in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Ducks Unlimited Canada

A common goldeneye duckling left to fend for itself in a stranger’s nest along the Saint John River in Fredericton has been given a new chance at survival.

The duckling found itself without a family when its mother dropped its egg into the nest of another species — the wood duck — Katie Scott of conservation group Ducks Unlimited Canada said Tuesday.

That behaviour is referred to as interspecies brood parasitism — when eggs laid in one nest are taken to the nests of other species – and is not uncommon among the goldeneye, Scott said in an interview.

“It’s kind of where the catchphrase ‘not putting all of your eggs in one basket’ comes from,” Scott said. One theory for the phenomenon, she added, is that the goldeneye places an egg in another nest to protect her group of ducklings in case her nest is destroyed.

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She said the blue tint of the goldeneye egg stood out against the roughly 12 off-white wood duck eggs. And the difference between the species became even clearer when all of the wood duck’s eggs hatched earlier this month.

Scott’s group installed a camera in the nest box, which captured footage of the mama wood duck guiding her babies out of the nest, leaving the goldeneye duckling alone.

She said that after a local goldeneye brood couldn’t be found for the duckling, the newborn bird was handed off to the Atlantic Wildlife Institute.

Ducks Unlimited Canada says the goldeneye duckling has survived the first few days with the institute and will remain in its care until it’s ready to be released into a wetland this summer.

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