Loon couple that lost its chick takes orphaned duckling under its wings

PHOTO: A pair of loons on a lake in Wisconsin have seemingly adopted a lost duckling as their own.PlayCourtesy Linda Grenzer
WATCH Loon couple that lost its chick takes orphaned duckling under its wings

An unlikely friendship has bloomed on the waters of Wisconsin as a pair of loons adopted an orphaned duckling.

When Dr. Walter Piper learned that two loons were mothering an orphaned duckling, he was "flabbergasted."

Piper has been studying loons for 27 years but he'd never seen something like this.

"This has never been reported before," he told "GMA."

The instance is a rarity for the species, said Piper, who runs The Loon Project, the largest research project on the species in North America.

It's touching and crazy and undeniable but these loons love this ducking and vice versa.

Despite frequenting the same habitats, the similarities are few and far between for mallards and loons. The two are "usually enemies."

PHOTO: The duckling has adopted some loon traits like standing on its adoptive parents back in the water. Courtesy Linda Grenzer
The duckling has adopted some loon traits like standing on its adoptive parent's back in the water.

This makes the blended family even more perplexing to Piper and his team.

"It's touching and crazy and undeniable but these loons love this ducking and vice versa."

Piper's team made the discovery about the duckling in mid-June at one of the 120 lakes in Wisconsin that Piper and his team regularly observe.

They speculate that the loons had tried and failed to raise their own chick when they came across this duckling who had lost its way.

PHOTO: The loons have also taught the duckling how to dive for food and eat from their mouths, which is virtually unheard of for mallards. Courtesy Elaina Lomery
The loons have also taught the duckling how to dive for food and eat from their mouths, which is virtually unheard of for mallards.

"They are acting just like parents would with a loon chick. They are all in on this duckling," he said, adding that the pair are "fiercely protective" of its new family member.

Piper says that the duckling has imprinted on the couple, even picking up some loon behaviors that scientists didn't think they were capable of, like standing on its parent's back in the water, diving for food and eating food from their mouths.

"It's something a loon chick would do but a mallard duckling would never do."

The Loon Project team is keeping the exact location of the lake under wraps so the birds' ecosystem isn't disturbed, but hope that as the duckling grows up, it'll come into contact with more of its mallard pals.

Until then, they are eager to see how the mixed family of three develops.

"It's crazy and exciting and we don't really know what to expect but we're excited about it."