Interspecific brood parasitism is not a phrase that rolls trippingly off the tongue, and the behavior is not something we get to see everyday. But egg dumping does happen, and subscriber Teri Franzen has proof. She was in a blind 20 feet from the shore of a pond at Brick Pond Wetland Preserve in Owego, New York, this spring when a Wood Duck hen appeared with four fledglings — three of her own and one from a Hooded Merganser.
The blended family settled onto a log 20 yards away, allowing Franzen to try many compositions, including the one above. “What I like about this specific image, other than the really cute ducklings,” she says, “is that it illustrates the separation of the merganser from its adoptive siblings.” Why would a Hoodie lay eggs in a Wood Duck’s nest? The hen may have been unable to find a nest site of her own or a predator may have disturbed her nest. We can only guess.