Sunday, April 7, 2013

Wood Ducks

For the Love of Wood Ducks
I took this photo of a pair of Wood Ducks from our dining room window. 

Wood Ducks
Today I am going to write about my experience with the behavior of Wood Ducks.  I was going to write a wonderful informative narrative on these ducks that I have observed every Spring on our property.  I find them very interesting.  Hopefully after reading the method I used for getting some of the photos, you will take me seriously.

We have two duck houses set on the side of the hill almost to the marsh.  I realized today that I didn't have any photos of these duck houses,  so dumb me went outside with my camera, my uniform (unmatched pj's and a fleece) and clogs instead of big boots.  You should have seen it, I'm sure it was quite comical.  I made it down the hill with a little difficulty, but it wasn't too hard.   I got to the bottom of the hill and I took the photos but getting back up the hill was not easy.  I kept losing my shoes because I have numb toes and I can't crinkle them up to hold clogs on.  I ended up crawling like a sloth up the hill and grabbing any tree or branch I could find.  I am glad no one saw me (so here I am telling everyone).  I was sucking a lot of fresh air before I got to the top of the hill.  My main concern was keeping my camera safe with no regard for my personal safety.  No one in my house knew what I was up to and knowing how tuned out they usually are listening to their audiobooks, I wonder how long it would take for them to find my body.  I bet it would take several hours or at least until they got hungry.

My world.  My husband and dad both listening to audiobooks.

Wood ducks build their roosts in holes in trees or nesting boxes built for this purpose.
Plans for houses available at

Wood Duck House up out of the water

Another view of the house
Male duck waiting for the female to decide if she likes the house

Early in the Spring the male ducks congregate for a while until they finally choose a mate.  I suspect these are young ducks because the mature mating pairs have already paired up early in January.

Once the male and female mate, the female lays and incubates the eggs.  It usually takes 28 to 35 days to incubate.  After the eggs hatch, the ducklings leave the nest box, never to return again.   They leave the nest when they are one day old.  One by one they drop from the nest, which could be several feet.  The mom makes a sound to urge them out but doesn't help them.  There are ridges cut inside the box or a piece of hardware cloth so the babies can reach the opening easily and then throw themselves to the ground.   They follow mom directly to the water and begin swimming.  She leads them single file to a safe place in the weeds and tall cattails.  Very rarely do you see them again until they are grown.  There are usually quite a few babies.  I have seen 12-14 swimming behind mom.  They are also very afraid of people.  I usually have to photograph them from inside the house through the window.  This is a lot safer than the experience I had this morning in my pajamas and clogs.  If I make a quick move inside the house it will be enough to scare them away.   These young were born in early June but Wood Ducks can have two broods a year and I'm not sure if this was the second batch.  Some mother Wood Ducks aren't really good mothers and lay their eggs in another ducks nests and then she leaves.  Apparently this happens quite often. 

Wood Duck mama with her newborn babies.
She tries to take the young to a safe haven.
Here they are heading for the cattails.
I'm sure the mortality rate is quite high and the snapping turtles are just waiting.

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