Why Do Ducks Follow the Leader?

Daisy the Duck
Daisy the Duck | Source

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

Konrad Zacharias Lorenz 1903-1989
Konrad Zacharias Lorenz 1903-1989 | Source

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.

Donald Duck
Donald Duck | Source

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.

Daisy with ducklings
Daisy with ducklings | Source

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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Comments for Why Do Ducks Follow the Leader? 44 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 20 months ago from Olympia, WA

It must be fowl day. I did chickens, you did ducks....I'm waiting for an article about geese next. :) As always I love your sense of humor and creativity. I hope we see much more of you in the near future, my friend.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 20 months ago from Arkansas

That is so innovative and hilarious. Your little ducklings are so precious. Speaking of ducks, quacks, and doctors, I'm reminded something Mr. B said when he was hospitalized for a heart attack at the VA years ago. The VA is in cahoots with the university medical center, a teaching hospital. He said that every morning and evening the doctor makes his rounds and he is accompanied by all the little ducklings who follow the big duck around. Voted up and funny and shared.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 20 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Doc....you Quack me up. What a wonderfully creative piece you have shared today. I'm smiling big. The videos are precious.....the babies waddling as fast as they can to keep up with Mama. "Nature" is so miraculous.

I am seeing this as a powerful testament to the "imprinting" our own human babies experience via Mom & Dad. It can be awakening, almost frightening to come to terms with the seriousness and importance of parenting.

Hmmmm.....my last little quacker has taken imprinting right into a lifelong career. Any suggestions?? LOL

This has started my day on such a happy, positive note. Thanks Doc!

UP++++Tweeted & Pinned


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 20 months ago from southern USA

Oh, Paula stole my line ... you Quack me up ...too. You certainly have a great talent for your one-of-a-kind interviews. I learn so much but laugh so hard at the same time. A great combination. You are brilliant as always, dear lady!

Up ++++ tweeting, pinning and sharing


AudreyHowitt profile image

AudreyHowitt 20 months ago from California

Aww--we had a duck for many years--named Ritz Quackers! He followed us everywhere!


mary615 profile image

mary615 20 months ago from Florida

I really enjoyed this Hub! We had a mama duck who sat on a nest of chicken eggs once and hatched out baby chicks. The chicks followed mama duck into the pond! We rescued all six of them.


ArtDiva profile image

ArtDiva 20 months ago from Yountville, CA

Have read if raised alone, a duck will follow what ever around....unfortunate if one of the many alleged "ducks" encountered in this world. Daisy, too wise to be fooled by a faux duck. A wonderful interview with another of the animal species.

“Fly Away Home” has long been in my DVD collection, a wonderfully heartwarming movie illustrating the best of human nature.


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 20 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

Thank you for another fun and educational interview, drbj. Your unique ability to communicate with animals and with people in the supernatural realm is very useful!


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 20 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Thank you for a wonderful read. Now I have to learn more about imprinting. Perhaps I will look it up on Gobble.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 20 months ago from South Africa

Interesting! Following the FIRST moving object they see. Well, it better not be a duck-eating cat.

I bet they feel offended because we call pseudo physicians quacks.

Another interesting and informative hub by the most unique professor drbj....


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 20 months ago

As a kid, my favorite game was Duck, Duck, Goose.. It stillis! I loved this interview. Dead people are so much more cooperative and interesting than live ones! Voted up, interesting and funny.


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 20 months ago from Maui and Arizona

This was so fun! I knew if I popped in here, I'd have a laugh. Sharing.


drbj profile image

drbj 20 months ago from south Florida Author

I don't have a hub about geese yet, Billy, but I can assure you that goslings exhibit the same kind of imprinting behavior as ducklings. Thanks for the visit and the always kind words.


drbj profile image

drbj 20 months ago from south Florida Author

Hi, MizB. Thanks for finding these ducklings so precious. Your gracious comments are always much appreciated as well as your votes. Hope you and hubby are well and he might get a kick out of learning that the word, duck, is used by nursing employees in many hospitals to describe a male urinal. As in: fetch me a duck. :)


drbj profile image

drbj 20 months ago from south Florida Author

Delighted to give you some smiles, Paula, by sharing this unique piece of animal behavior by determined ducklings. Ain't Nature grand?

Your comments were most perceptive since as parents we are constantly 'imprinting' behavior upon our children by our actions ... or lack thereof.

Tell me more about your last lil quacker - you have aroused my ever present curiosity. And thanks for the tweeting, pinning, etc.


drbj profile image

drbj 20 months ago from south Florida Author

Hi, Faith. So happy to quack you and Paula up. Discovering that you learn so much while laughing makes me feel good all over. Thanks for your sublime comments, m'dear , and all that sharing activity. You are a sweetheart.


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 20 months ago from sunny Florida

What is up with my laptop...no 'gobble' search engine on mine!!! Love this...you are so clever!!! It is hard work climbing up onto a curb, isn't it?

I am so fascinated with imprinting..it is simply amazing.

So nice to see you, drbj....Angels are on the way to you (and not on the wings of ducks :D ) ps


Genna East profile image

Genna East 20 months ago from Massachusetts, USA

Lol! What can I say that hasn’t already been said above. I looooved this! It’s so good to see you writing again on HP, drjb. These delightful, creative hubs make my day. :-)


ArtDiva profile image

ArtDiva 19 months ago from Yountville, CA

I keep coming back to this, or I should say, so many of your laugh out load interviews with Tamarin Monkeys, Springboks, ducks and weird species other than the humankind that lifts me up and makes my day complete. Rather than reading through, again, leaving a note acknowledging the wonderfulness parted, to keep coming back for a smile when needed.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 19 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Oh Doc...I'll do better than tell you about my last little quacker.....I'll ship him to you......(smile) kidding....I'd never do that to you.


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 19 months ago from Arkansas

That's so funny about "fetch me a duck." I'll have to tell him because he is facing another hernia surgery and might want to use it (the line and the urinal LOL)


drbj profile image

drbj 18 months ago from south Florida Author

I can tell by your comment, Audrey, that you miss y0ur faithful duck, Ritz Quackers. What a delightfully creative name!


drbj profile image

drbj 18 months ago from south Florida Author

Thanks for letting me know you enjoyed this hub, Mary. And for sharing your story of the baby chicks trying to swim after 'mama' duck. That must have been quite a sight. Happy you were able to rescue all of them.


drbj profile image

drbj 18 months ago from south Florida Author

Hi, ArtDiva. You are absolutely correct. A duckling will follow the first thing they see - does not have to be a human nor an animal. Researchers have watched them follow a moving ball and even a model electric train. Thanks for enjoying this interview and that inspiring movie, "Fly Away Home."


drbj profile image

drbj 18 months ago from south Florida Author

Delighted, Alicia, that you found this to be another fun, educational interview. Yes, my supernatural ability to communicate with animals and deceased celebrities does come in handy. :)


drbj profile image

drbj 18 months ago from south Florida Author

Thanks for the kind words, Eric. Yes, by all means, do research on the fascinating subject of imprinting of infant animals. If you find info on Gobble, do let me know.


drbj profile image

drbj 18 months ago from south Florida Author

You made me laugh out loud with your comment, Martie, that those ducklings better not follow a duck-eating cat. Amen!

Thanks for stopping by with your most gracious comments, m'dear.


drbj profile image

drbj 18 months ago from south Florida Author

I remember that game, too, bp. Thanks for the deja vu. And also for loving this interview, the votes and the Up. You are on the mark with your comment that the dead are often more interesting to interview than those still on the right side of the earth.


drbj profile image

drbj 18 months ago from south Florida Author

Hi, Pamela. Thanks for popping in for the fun and a laugh. 'Twas my pleasure. And for the sharing, too.


drbj profile image

drbj 18 months ago from south Florida Author

Sorry to learn you are deprived, m'dear Patricia, with no Gobble search engine. Guess you will just have to muddle by with ole Google. Delighted that imprinting fascinated you as it does me. I watch those duckling videos over and over myself.

Thanks for the angels which are most welcome.


drbj profile image

drbj 18 months ago from south Florida Author

Thank you, Genna, for loooooving this. And your most gracious comments make MY day, y'know.


drbj profile image

drbj 18 months ago from south Florida Author

What a sublime comment, ArtDiva - that my weird interviews lift you up and make your day complete. I could not wish for more. Come back as often as you wish, m'dear. Your smiles and comments make my day.


drbj profile image

drbj 18 months ago from south Florida Author

Hi, Paula, thanks for the return visit and your lil quacker offer. Your sweet duck must give you smiles every day. Although my two very young great grands would have loved a duckling to follow them, we don't have room on the premises (yards) to board it. But thank you regardless.


drbj profile image

drbj 18 months ago from south Florida Author

MizB - Hope this finds your husband well and recovered from his surgery. So . . . did he had an opportunity to use the 'fetch me a duck' line? Just wondering. :)


DeborahNeyens profile image

DeborahNeyens 17 months ago from Iowa

Cute story! I love ducks, and this was a lot of fun.


Sunshine625 profile image

Sunshine625 17 months ago from Orlando, FL

Gobble! I sure hope I don't start calling Google, Gobble...people will think I've quacked up!


drbj profile image

drbj 17 months ago from south Florida Author

Delighted you found this a lot of fun, Deborah, and that you love ducks. The lil ducklings are adorable as they follow mommy wherever. Ain't nature grand?


drbj profile image

drbj 17 months ago from south Florida Author

Would hate to be responsible for your quack-up, Linda. But calling Google, Gobble, may not be as strange as calling it Giggle. Right? Thanks for stopping by, m'dear.


Jeannieinabottle profile image

Jeannieinabottle 17 months ago from Baltimore, MD

This is so adorable. The cute duck videos were an added bonus. :-)


drbj profile image

drbj 17 months ago from south Florida Author

Delighted you enjoyed the ducklings in the videos, Jeannie. Me, too. Thank you for finding this post as adorable as I did.


Thelma Alberts profile image

Thelma Alberts 17 months ago from Germany

Funny! There are plenty of ducks in our city park now, quacking. LOL! As always, it was a fun read. Thank you.


drbj profile image

drbj 17 months ago from south Florida Author

Thank you, Thelma, for making this trip. If you have numerous ducks in your city park, you should have ample time to watch imprinting occur in person. Thanks for enjoying this read.


Au fait profile image

Au fait 16 months ago from North Texas

Babies of the bird family are always so adorable! We didn't have ducks on our farm when I was growing up, but we had chickens. The babies are always so cute.

Yes imprinting is fascinating, and you explain it so well.


drbj profile image

drbj 16 months ago from south Florida Author

I agree, Au fait - goslings and ducklings and baby chicks are adorable and fun to watch as they follow the leader - no matter who that leader might be. Happy you enjoyed my imprinting explanation - it is a wondrous process to behold.

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