M asked in Science & MathematicsZoology · 9 years ago

do real life ducks have the ability to count?

just watched a documentary with a duck whose ducklings were jumping out of a tree knot/nest. I started wondering, "does that mother duck know when all of her babies have jumped, or when she walks and looks back does she know if one is missing?"

Likewise in 'v' flight, do they know when their numbers have increased or dwindled? How if they can't count?

2 Answers

  • 9 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    It has been shown that birds have the ability to count, because small birds typically lay a fixed number of eggs, and they are known to abandon nests in which an extra egg has been added. Brood parasites such as cowbirds and cuckoos, which lay their eggs in the nest of other birds, therefore will remove an egg if they have laid an egg in a host''s nest. Ducks are also known to parasitize other ducks, by laying eggs in the nests of other ducks. Experiments have shown that ducks will abandon a nest if 7 eggs are added to it, but if only 1 or 4 eggs are added, they will not abandon the nests but may or may not reduce the number of eggs they lay. This shows that ducks can also count, though it is not known how precisely they can count. For example, they may not be able to distinguish between 8 and 9, but may be able to tell the difference between 3 and 10. Besides, the mortality rate of ducklings is high, so if a female duck were to keep counting (assuming that she can actually count precisely), then she may not be able to function. She cannot stop and look for a missing duck if it is lost, because she has to keep watch over the entire brood and make sure they find enough food to live and grow. Therefore, even if one or two or more ducklings are lost, she cannot afford to stop and look for them.

    I reckon a female duck will wait a reasonable amount of time for ducklings to emerge from the nest and won't leave as long as she sees them emerging. I don't think she keeps count.

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago


    It wouldn't...couldn't.


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