Wood Ducks Notecard

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Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa)

The wood duck is a beautiful, crested bird. This illustration shows a male wood duck in the foreground and a female in the background. The male is even more colorful than the female, as he is patterned with iridescent greens, purples and blues. During summer, wood ducks range across much of the United States and parts of southern Canada. During winter, most individuals migrate to inland waters of the southern United States.

Wood ducks nest in cavities, usually holes in trees, in secluded pools of forested swamps and shadowy recesses of overgrown streams and rivers. If its privacy is respected this duck will also use nest boxes set on piles in standing water. The clutch of eggs, typically from 10 to 15, is nestled in a blanket of down plucked from the female's breast and incubated for approximately one month.

Soon after hatching, young wood ducks jump out of their nest in a free-form dive, often from 50 or more feet off the ground. Usually they are unharmed by the fall. But many pitfalls remain as the ducklings follow their mother to the nearest water. They may fall prey to foxes, skunks, cats, hawks or crows. And even after the ducklings are in the water, fish and snapping turtles take a toll. The large size of the brood helps to insure that at least some of the young will survive to perpetuate the species.

Largely vegetarian, wood ducks are particularly fond of duckweeds, tiny, floating plants, as well as the seeds of grasses, especially wild rice. They also venture into the woods in search of tree seeds, especially acorns, hickory nuts and beechnuts. Wood ducks are rather vocal birds. The male produces a clear whistle with a rising inflection; the female utters a catlike sound.

In the early 1900's wood ducks were close to extinction because of shooting, forest clearing, and drainage of swamps. More recently, protection from hunting and increased habitat protection have helped wood duck populations increase. As development pressure continues, however, we must continue to protect sufficient habitat for the survival of these shy, exotic ducks.

artwork and text by Steve Sierigk (c) 2000

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