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Wood Duck

Wood Duck

The male Wood Duck is a thing of splendor. His glossy green head sports a slicked-backed crest. His bright red eye is the largest eye of all ducks and the color matches the color of his bill. His wings and long tail are dark blue. The female is gray with a white tear drop around the eye. In flight, the head is held high with the bill pointed downwards. A Wood Duck is about half the size of a Mallard.

Wood Ducks are found in ponds, marshes and rivers near dense woods. They are a dabbling duck. Around 90 per cent of their diet is plants (they love duckweed). They also will eat aquatic insects, snails and tadpoles, and will wander inland to forage for acorns.

Courtship can begin as early as fall. In spring, the bonded pair return the female’s previous nesting grounds. “Woodies” have the ability to clutch branches with their toes and claws, and can perch in trees. They nest in a tree cavity 30 to 50 feet above ground. The female lines the nest with her downy feathers and lays 8-14 creamy white eggs. A day after hatching, the female calls to chicks from the ground. The chicks respond by jumping out of the tree cavity and floating like puffballs down to the ground, where they follow the female to the safety of the water.

The Wood Duck nearly went extinct in the early 1900’s, the victim of habitat destruction and hunting. Protective measures were put in place, and it now is listed as a species of least concern, according to Cornell University’s All About Birds website.

First published MCAS The Black Oystercatcher Octber 2016
Wood Duck photograph by Olaf Oliviero Riemer