If you’ve ever wondered whether your ducks recognize you as their owner, you’re not alone. It’s a common question among duck keepers, and it has a complex answer.
Ducks are interesting creatures, and though they may not show it in the same way as a dog or cat, there is evidence to suggest that they do form bonds with their human caretakers. So let’s explore what experts say about ducks and their ability to recognize their owners.
Ducklings, Imprinting, and Memory
Many duck owners will attest to their pet’s deep bond and connection to them, and it turns out there is some truth behind this connection.
Ducklings immediately imprint on their mothers as soon as they hatch. This is a survival evolution trait that ensures they instinctively and immediately remember and follow their mother AND siblings. Scientists believe this is similar to a photographic memory. They also say that these impressions can only happen in a precious short amount of time. So if the mother duck is not around, abnormal imprinting behavior can occur.
Abnormal imprinting means the duckling will follow around whatever moving object it sees first– from humans to rolling balls or even wooden blocks.
Austrian Biologist Konrad Lorenz first discovered this in the 1970s.
Later on in the 1980s, we learned that chicks and ducklings could imprint on sound, too.
This means that there are benefits to incubating ducklings on your kitchen counter, especially if befriending your ducks is important to you.
As far as memory, though, our scientific research and knowledge are shaky at best.
We know that they have good memories, and it’s likely that they can recognize and remember human faces, but we don’t know how they store or use these memories.
We know that they do not consolidate their memories in their sleep, but that just leads to more unanswered questions from researchers.
Are Ducks Intelligent?
Even though the phrase “bird-brained” means a lack of intelligence, researchers are finding out that ducks and newly hatched ducklings are relatively smart.
This study published in Science Journal talks about how researchers discovered that ducklings are able to understand complex concepts in abstract reasoning.
At just a few hours old, ducklings can categorize “same” and “different” objects, remember them (for life), and then apply their own findings to other objects in the future without the help of aids, training, or social cues.
You can learn more about those experiments from this piece in The Smithsonian Magazine.
Do Ducks Recognize Their Owners? My Thoughts.
Science hasn’t yet put many resources into specific learning with definitiveness that ducks can recognize their owners– but that doesn’t mean that we can’t draw conclusions of our own.
If you’ve ever spent any amount of time with ducks (or chickens, for that matter), you know that they recognize faces and voices and prefer some people over others.
Part of the flock may gravitate towards small sweet children, others will follow around the women, and a few will bond with even the gruffest, most intimidating mountain men and farmers.
So yes, while science hasn’t had a chance to prove what I think we all know, I do believe that ducks can recognize and remember their owners.
What do you think?