Daily Bird: Spring waterfowl — Wood Duck
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by Mike Aurelia.
The male Wood Duck is one of Connecticut’s most colorful puddle ducks. Wood Ducks are more secretive than some other ducks; they like wet, wooded habitats such as swamps, river banks, lakes, and ponds.
Large trees with cavities are essential for breeding if people aren’t assisting with nesting boxes.
What it looks like: The drake is a small to medium sized duck with black, green, white and buff/brown colors and a green crest. The hen is more brown and white with a grayish “helmet” a yellow eye ring and white patch around the eye.
This time of the year Wood Ducks are found in good nesting habitat. That includes almost all freshwater bodies and wetlands with nearby large trees and adequate cover.
Like most puddle ducks, wood ducks are omnivores with diverse diets including seeds, fruit, aquatic vegetation and both aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates.
Unlike other waterfowl, the Wood Duck can perch and nest in trees and is designed to fly through wooded habitats. Everyone has probably seen a video showing wood ducklings dropping great distances from a nest hole in a tree. Individual ducklings have been known to jump 89 meters without injury.
Abandoned Pileated Woodpecker holes are frequently recycled as Wood Duck nests, as are other tree cavities.
Wood Duck hens often lay some eggs in other Wood Duck nests. This egg dumping is thought to be a strategy that increases the chance of duckling survival. Hens that dump eggs have a regular nest later in the season. Wood ducks frequently have two broods per season.
Conservation Status: According to Birds of the World Online, Wood Ducks were seriously impacted by market hunting and were close to extinction before the passage of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, in 1918. Subsequently hunting regulations at the state and federal level, and wildlife management practices, have resulted in a remarkable recovery in Connecticut and the rest of the bird’s range.
Breeding Bird Surveys and Christmas Bird Count data indicate that populations have increased significantly, and Wood Ducks are now considered to be of least concern by the IUCN.