The Corgi and the Ducklings

Ducklings following in a line behind a mother duck is enough to turn heads and elicit a few "awwws." But ducklings following a dog as seen on this photo which first appeared on Animal Planet's Wall of Fame some time ago?

While it might look like a strange friendship between two species, this relationship is nothing unique. According to Sara Hallager, a bird biologist at the National Zoo, all baby birds imprint on the first thing they see after they have hatched. When ducks or other animals imprint, it's generally on their mother. It's an instant bond from which they then learn the behavioral aspects of their species. Simply put, many baby animals are evolutionarily hardwired to follow their mother. But sometimes, when animals are raised by humans, this imprinting can end up misplaced - on the human - or, as in this case, a dog.

So how did this duckling duo end up thinking a dog was their parent? It happened when Frances Marsh and her family bought two two-day-old ducklings at a local garden center near their home in Atlantic Beach, N.C.

Yogi, the family's 5-year-old corgi, was in the car that day. When he saw the ducklings in their little box, he was instantly fascinated, leaned his head over and licked them. Ever since, the ducklings, Biggie and Pac have chosen to follow Yogi, as if he were their mother.

Why Yogi has returned the love may be the real mystery. "Dogs are pretty smart, but I'm not going to try to hypothesize," said Hallanger. "But he's obviously bonded with the ducklings. It might just be part of his nature."

There's no question in Frances Marsh's mind though that Yogi thinks they're his babies. He has been known to sleep beside the ducklings' box, herd them gently by pushing them with his nose, and once even barked to alert his mistress when one of ducklings had gotten stuck on its back.

So what happens when the ducklings grow up? Sara Hallager says it's too early to tell, but as the ducks age and hormones start to kick into gear they might eventually lose their association with the dog and become wild ducks.

The ducks are now two months old, white feathers have replaced the yellow baby-fluff and the odd trio is still inseparable.

October 2011
Photos: Frances Marsh