MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A mama duck in Minnesota has captured hearts across the nation after a Bemidji photographer snapped an image of her leading an astonishing 76 ducklings across a lake.

Amateur wildlife photographer Brent Cizek noticed the exceptional common merganser, which he now calls Mama Merganser, late last month during a photo session on Lake Bemidji.

While it’s not uncommon to see a troupe of 20 or so ducklings lining up behind a single hen, 76 of them is another story.

“It was mind blowing,” Cizek told The New York Times. “I didn’t know a duck could care for that many chicks.”

An earlier photo of the same bird was featured by the National Audubon Society, in a July 13 story that explained that ducks sometimes put their eggs in others’ nests and that separated duckling sometimes cling to ducks that look like their mothers.

Still, it’s not quite sure how Mama Merganser amassed such an impressive brood.

“Everybody keeps saying, ‘Mom of the Year,’” Cizek told the newspaper.

A typical common merganser usually has a small flock of about 10 ducklings. The species is found in all season near lakes in parts of northern Minnesota.

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