Why Do Ducks Follow the Leader?
As a child, did you ever play the game, Follow the Leader? The rules are simple. Whatever the leader does, the followers imitate. The maximum number of players is unlimited. But the minimum, of course, is two.
If the leader hops, the followers hop. If the leader jumps, the followers jump. If the leader throws a rock and accidentally breaks a window … the followers run like hell.
Did you know that ducks and geese play Follow the Leader, too? I am not joking. Look at this video and see for yourself!
Watch these Ducklings Play Follow the Leader
I was so fascinated with this odd animal behavior that I planned to interview Konrad Zacharias Lorenz, the famous ethologist who was known for his impressive work with the animal behavior he labeled as ‘imprinting.’
Utilizing my celebrated supernatural interviewing techniques, I attempted to contact Konrad. But he was offline attending a scientific conference with a number of famous deceased colleagues.
So I did the next best thing, and drove to the small lake near my home and waited for the ducks to come down for their daily swim. I often watch them gracefully floating on the surface of the water while below, unseen, their little legs are paddling furiously.
Soon a baby mama duck floated by with eight small ducklings following her every move. I hailed her and this is what ensued.
Interview with Daisy Duck
me – Hi, do you have time for a short interview today, Mrs. Duck?
Mrs. Duck – Why not? And you may call me Daisy.
me – Is your partner the famous Donald?
Daisy –No, I am not with Donald Trump. I am a single mom.
me – I was referring to Donald Duck. How do you know about the famous Donald?
Daisy – I have some turkey friends who let me use their search engine to find information online.
me – Google?
Daisy – No, . . . Gobble! [laughing]
me – I didn’t see that one coming. I wanted to talk to you about the animal behavior called imprinting.
Daisy – Imprinting is a godsend for a mama duck. Can you imagine running around keeping tabs on eight ducklings that are running around in eight different directions?
Ducklings Climbing a Tall Ledge
me – [chuckling] That would be challenging. Did you do some online research about imprinting?
Daisy – You betcha. It was an Austrian scientist named Konrad Zacharias Lorenz who first documented imprinting – the social bonding to a parent figure – in the 1930s.
me – He later won a Nobel Prize for his work. Did you learn how Lorenz discovered this odd behavior of newborn ducks obsessively following their mamas?
Daisy – A neighbor gave him a newborn duckling which immediately began to follow him wherever he went. Wherever Lorenz went, the duck was sure to go. Just like Mary’s lamb.
me – That is what is so incredible. Lorenz documented that ducklings and goslings could be ‘imprinted’ to follow almost anything — from people to colored balls to model trains — during their first days of life.
Daisy – He discovered that those newborns will follow the FIRST moving object they see.
me – This programming may have evolved to help the newborns recognize and stay close to their parents for safety.
Daisy – I learned that Lorenz became known as ‘the man who walked with geese.’
Magazines and newspapers displayed photos of him leading and even swimming with his imprinted, faithful followers.
Ducklings Climbing Stairs
me – Speaking of imprinting, there was an inspirational movie in 1996, “Fly Away Home,” about the true story of a 13-year old girl who imprinted and raised an orphaned flock of geese in Canada …
Daisy – [interrupting] …and taught them to migrate south for the winter by following her and her father in a light plane.
me – Exactly! How did you know?
Daisy – Gobble, of course. Have to paddle away now – my babies are getting impatient.
Ducklings Jumping into the Pool
Daisy – Could you do me a small favor? Please ask your readers not to refer to unethical doctors as quacks.
me – No problem. To all you lovable folks out there, in the future please refer to such individuals as fraudulent fakers or pseudo physicians. Daisy thanks you.
© Copyright BJ Rakow, Ph.D. 2015. All rights reserved. Author, "Much of What You Know about Job Search Just Ain't So."
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