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Five facts about wood ducks


The first time the jeeeeeeeee sound of a male wood duck’s whistle makes you look at one, you might blink–then look twice. The patterns and bright colours of the male plumage look, well, almost fake😉, like an imaginative paint-by-numbers craft project. 


But these brightest birds of BC’s watersheds are very real indeed, and are to be found in wooded wetlands, rivers, streams, lake and river edges. Delightfully, their scientific name Aix sponsa means “in wedding raiment,” AKA wedding clothing. 🤵🏽‍♀️ Also known as Carolina or American ducks, wood ducks are migratory, and fly to BC breeding grounds each March or April from southern wintering areas.


Five facts about Wood Ducks:

  1. Wood ducks, unlike most ducks, have sharp claws which allow them to perch on branches and live partly in trees. Adults weigh about 450 grams and reach a length of about 54 cm. Their average life span is four years — that includes a mortality rate of 50% among youngsters.

  2. They live off a varied diet of seeds, aquatic plants, nuts, fruits, shrubs, aquatic and land insects and the odd frog. Wood ducks, in turn, get eaten by mink, raccoon, snapping turtle, bullfrog, largemouth bass, and other large predatory fishes.

  3. Females lay from 9 to, rarely, as many as 30 white-tan eggs. They nest in holes in large trees at least 2 meters above ground, sometimes created by woodpeckers or rot. They return to the same nest each year. 

  4. Ducklings hatch after about 30 days of incubation. According to Ducks Unlimited, the little ones jump to the ground from their nests just one day after hatching–and can drop safely from nest heights as high as 100 meters. The brood then follows their mother away from the nest, preferring shallow, flooded habitat with lots of understory cover. By nine weeks old, ducklings take wing.

  5. If wood ducks were humans, their family lives would draw attention from social services–and maybe the law. Females, notes Ducks Unlimited, “engage in brood parasitism, depositing their eggs in other wood ducks’ nests, to be raised by that nest’s hen.” Their shiny mates could be called “deadbeat ducks,” because they shift off after their mates have settled to incubate their eggs. But the moms don’t hang around much longer, either–when their youngsters are two months old the hens go off to moult, leaving the ducklings to fend for themselves, according to the BC Conservation Data Centre. (Did we note that the species has a 50% mortality rate?) Wood ducks are an example of nature red in bill and claw. (With apologies to Lord Alfred Tennyson.)

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  • CodeBlue B.C.
    published this page in Stories 2024-04-16 17:43:08 -0700