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Mother ducks are known to be caring and protective of their youngGetty Images

A duck in Michigan has continued its decade-old tradition of waddling through the halls of an elementary school hall with its troupe of ducklings to reach a nearby pond. Every year for the past 13 years, the closed-off courtyard of Village Elementary School in Hartland is the scene to which the female duck, called Vanessa, returns to lays its eggs.

Once the eggs hatch, school authorities tape black construction paper along the walls and block hallways to set a clear and safe pathway through the school for the birds to shuffle through to a pond on the other side.

The hallways are the only way to reach the outside world for the ducklings, which are incapable of flying while young.

The latest procession of the fowls took place on the evening of 28 April, the Livingston Daily Press & Argus reports.

The mother duck has gotten so used to the routine that it waits for the school doors to be unlocked for it to pass through.

"It's the best thing you will ever witness," the school's principal William Cain said.

'Caring community'

Teachers make sure that students are not present in the school halls during the duck crossing to avoid frightening the birds.

"It's so unusual, but everyone gets so invested in this duck because how cool is it that she comes back each and every year," said Elizabeth Krause, a Hartland resident who has witnessed most of the duck's appearances at the elementary school through the years.

"Ducks have a natural instinct for danger, so it's funny that it just trusted that it would get out somehow. I think it really speaks volumes of our community at Village and in Hartland. It shows that we are a safe and caring community."

Ruth Darrah, a retired teacher at the school, said she feared that the duck would not return this year. "She has it down by now, after 13 years," she added.