FREEPORT, Maine, Jan. 7 (UPI) -- A Maine mother who brought home a duckling "on a whim" said she was shocked when the duck formed a powerful bond with her 5-year-old daughter.
Ashley Brown said her daughter, Kylie, has been inseparable from Snowflake the duck ever since she first brought the bird home in July.
"It was kind of on a whim that we brought him home," Brown told WGME-TV. "I thought, 'It's a farm animal. It lives outside. Maybe we'll get some eggs from it?' I was not expecting this."
Brown said Snowflake, who Kylie named, immediately took to the young girl.
"This little yellow fur ball is squawking in the box, and Kylie walked over to the box and leaned in, and he was quiet," Brown said.
The mother said Snowflake accompanied Kylie trick-or-treating on Halloween, dressing as the Olaf the snowman to the girl's Queen Elsa from Frozen.
"They are best friends, but in his eyes she's mama. She's Mama Duck," Brown said.
She said the duck waits each day for Kylie to return home from school. She said the young girl has learned responsibility from taking care of Snowflake.
"I've seen her grow up. She's become very responsible. She takes very good care of him," she said.
Brown said she's never seen a pet as dedicated as Snowflake.
"He's family. He's definitely family," she said.
Ian Duncan, animal biology sciences professor with the University of Guelph, said it is not unheard of for young fowl to identify humans as their parents -- a process called "imprinting."
"[Poultry] learn to follow the first large-moving object that they see," Duncan told the Toronto Star.