Wood ducks galore

Of the local ducks that breed here, the most dramatic are the Wood Ducks, Aix sponsa.  They are here from spring to fall, and I have been watching them for the whole breeding season, starting on March 28th, too far away for good photos.

They are very shy, but a pair flew in over my head on May 12th without noticing me, and settled down. The males in breeding plumage are extremely handsome, bedecked in an almost military outfit:

Wood ducks

The females are much more discreet, but the large oval white eye marking helps to distinguish them from any other brownish duck:

Wood ducks

This year they are breeding on my biggest beaver pond.  They nest in holes in dead trees, like this one, which I suspect is where they were breeding this year:

Possible wood duck nest hole

Once they have ducklings, they become easier to photograph, because they cannot fly off when they hear the slightest sound or catch a tiny movement. The next photo was taken on June 18th:

Wood duck and ducklings

On July 2 all six were still there, and beginning to leave her side and venture out alone:

Merganser duckling

Still too small to fly, if startled they ran along the top of the water, desperate to get to the safety of the rushes:

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By late July, I found a solitary female on a tiny secluded beaver pond; either she had raised her brood, or never had one, who knows.

Wood duck

Wood ducks normally have one brood a year, but occasionally they have two. This female had very young ducklings on August 4th, so it could have been her second brood:

And on August 29th I saw what I am fairly sure are two new grownups, one female (left) and one male, distinguished by their white head markings. The male does not yet have the adult’s red eye.

Welcome to the next generation.

I saw my last wood duck this year on October 18th. They are leaving for Florida, very sensible, really.

PS Next time, I will show you how the male’s plumage changes with the seasons.

3 thoughts on “Wood ducks galore”

  1. I live near the edge of protected land where the Napa river flows into its delta, then into the North San Francisco Bay. We get ducks living here it seems in greater or lesser quantities through out the year as they migrate. There are many other kinds of water birds, storks (few), egrets (many) and Pelicans which I always mistake for swans from a distance!!! We do also have swans that someone must of “planted” in one of the ponds. I love them all and wish my sister would come out to hike along the edge of the water with me next time she visits (and you as well Moira)!

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  2. Quite my favourite ducks after an early boyfriend had a pair in his South African garden! Lovely evocative photographs as always. Thank you.

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