Bruce, the bear, is gathering eggs for his dinner recipe, but unfortunately they hatch. The ducklings immediately imprint on Bruce and follow him everywhere. After trying to get them to leave he gives up and raises them, even trying to teach them to migrate. When that fails, they end by vacationing in Miami every year.
Ryan T. Higgens, ©2015, Disney Hyperion, 978-1-4847-3088-1
Teaching About Imprinting
The first research on imprinting was by Konrad Lorenz around 1935. He observed that certain birds will develop a rapid strong attachment to a certain individual, often a mother. Geese will imprint on the first suitable moving stimulus in the first 13-16 hours (called the critical period). After that it is hard to change. It can even be a box moving on a track.
It is particularly associated with “nidifugous” birds, that is, ones that leave the nest shortly after hatching. They are born with open eyes, are capable of independent motion, and leave the nest almost immediately. It is from Latin for “nidus” meaning “nest” and “fugeri” meaning “to flee” (hence the word fugitive).
The purposes of imprinting are to learn what species you are, how your species behaves, what the sounds of your species are, what would be the appearance of an appropriate mate, for protection by staying near mother, and to learn to find food.
Typical birds that imprint are chickens, ducks, geese, crows, kestrels, vultures, eagles, raptors, and wading birds.
Ask students to first brainstorm what questions they would have about what animals imprint:
- What kinds of birds imprint? List some. What other animals imprint?
- Why do they imprint—what is it for?
- What are some of the birds that don’t imprint?
- What are some of the birds that do imprint?
- What are the characteristics at birth of birds that imprint?
- How are the birds that don’t imprint different?
- Who discovered imprinting?
- What is the problem if birds imprint on humans?
It’s Bad Science
In the end of the story, a little baby turtle approaches a duck and says, “Mama?” It’s cute—but not good science. Ask students why? As mother turtle lays hundreds and hundreds of eggs that the male fertilizers, the eggs are buried, and both parents leave. The babies hatch and must flee to the sea under the assault of predators who have gathered for “lunch”. Barely 1 in 100 survive to return to the beach. They have no parent to which to imprint.
Extreme Writing and Grumpy Cat
Mother Bruce is grumpy, but not as grumpy as Grumpy Cat. For Extreme Writing, go to my Grumpy Cat Pinterest page that contains 26 Grumpy Cat statements with three choices for Extreme Writing topics.
For the Good luck… You’ll Need It image, for example, the three prompts are:
- Lucky things that have happened to me—or a friend.
- Good luck and bad luck—superstitions I know.
- “It started as a normal Monday morning,” and continue with alternating good and bad luck.
For 10 creative writing ideas, click Mother Bruce to download.