Home Science & TechScience How to Print Ducklings – The New York Times

How to Print Ducklings – The New York Times

by YAR

“Ducklings will imprint on anything that moves that’s bigger than a box of matches,” says Antone Martinho-Truswell, who co-founded the Duckling Laboratory at Oxford University while earning his Ph.D. in zoology. Ducks are what scientists call precocious birds: capable of feeding, swimming, and walking shortly after hatching. Still, ducklings are vulnerable, which is why the little puffins evolved to seek out and memorize the image of their mothers. If a duckling hatches and doesn’t see it, it will eagerly imprint itself on something else, like you.

Hang out with a duckling constantly, right after it hatches. Ducklings are most sensitive to imprinting 12 to 36 hours after hatching (with the imprinting window lasting about 14 days). Stand where you can be seen. Birds are visual creatures; a duckling opens its eyes and immediately begins to look for a keeper. They prefer duck-sized objects and S-shaped necks, but they’re not picky: they’ll imprint on humans, cats, dogs, or, in the case of Martinho-Truswell’s lab research, brightly colored plastic balls or shapes. suspended cardboard of a spinning pen on a string. Avoid using yellow; the ducklings would rather not print on anything yellow. “We think it’s to prevent them from printing their brothers,” says Martinho-Truswell. However, don’t become a parent duck on a whim; it’s a big commitment. Printing is helpful if you’re a duck farmer, but could be a burden otherwise. Muscovy ducks can live for more than 20 years. “You’re assuming something that is going to treat you like her mom for the first year and then like family for the rest of her life,” he says.

In the lab, Martinho-Truswell hatched her ducklings in the dark, and for nearly two days the only moving objects they saw were the dangling shapes. After a day or so, he’d take the ducklings out of his boxes, and they seemed relieved to imprint on him, running and tumbling after him around the lab. “I really liked being a mom to all those ducklings,” he says. Before he closed that initial 14-day window, he would deliver the ducklings to a nearby farm for the ducklings to transfer his footprint to his farmer. Allow yourself to feel the interspecies tenderness of a duckling’s attachment; this little thing needs you. “In the egg, you can’t predict what his mother will look like,” says Martinho-Truswell.

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