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Two geese rearing one odd duckling in Woodbury

These two geese at Eagle Valley Golf Course have taken this duckling under their wing. Submitted photo

George Miller was golfing at Eagle Valley Golf Course last month when he spotted an unusual trio. Two adult geese were shepherding a duckling around the course.

"It is quite amusing to see them together," Miller said.

It's not clear how a duckling falls under the wings of two geese. Steve Cordts, a waterfowl specialist at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, shed some light on the atypical relationship. Cordts said it's not uncommon for a duckling to get lost and join another brood of ducks; but in this unique occurrence at Eagle Valley, the duckling was welcomed into a family of geese.

Cordts said pairs of geese can be very territorial and defensive. It is possible that the geese think that the duckling is "theirs" now, he said.

As a member of the grounds crew at Eagle Valley, Miller stays on the lookout for the duckling as he works. The geese move around to various holes to find available water. While traveling, the geese keep the duckling in between them.

"The adult geese are very protective of the little duck," Miller said.

When looking at the duckling's future in the care of his adoptive parents, Carrol Henderson, supervisor of the DNR's Nongame Wildlife Program and author of multiple books on birds and bird-watching, said, "We are in uncharted territory here." If the duckling is a mallard, a very adaptable species, it may adjust to it adoptive parents, she explained.

Geese mostly graze on grass, whereas a growing duckling needs protein from insects in its diet.

Miller told the employees at the pro shop about the odd family strutting about the course.

Cory Althoff, another Eagle Valley employee, decided to snap some pictures of the geese and duckling. It's not hard to find the duckling; the goslings that are also a part of the family are about five times its size. "That's what makes the little guy stand out," Althoff said.