The Wood Ducks try again: a second brood

Wood ducks start nesting in mid-April. Incubation is 28-37 days, meaning the first ducklings arrive from mid-May onwards, and I saw two different sets of ducklings this year on June 2, one lot freshly hatched and one lot older. They are elusive, but I see them from time to time, rather surprisingly often eating spatterdock, which seems to be a favorite food*. Here’s one on June 19th:

The next photo shows a mother with two month-old youngsters whose adult plumage is now pushing out their childish down. She has waited till July 14th when the spatterdock flower is over and the ovary is exposed, and carries off her trophy.

From hatching to flying is about 60 days, so the oldest batch can just about fly now, July 14th. But breeding season is not over! Yesterday, I saw a mother with seven brand new ducklings, each about 5″ long.

She could be a late starter, or it could be her second brood, perhaps after losing her first lot to predators. Her second brood is being given a safety lecture:

Mid-July is just about the latest date for a successful hatch, and round here second broods are rare, less than 1% of females (they are more common further south).

PS: Aging the ducklings is difficult. here is a description of their plumage, from Birds of the World. “Development of Juvenile plumage in wild birds in Massachusetts (Grice and Rogers 1965): downy pattern fading and first rectrices appearing at 20 d; wing coverts emerging and feathers on breast and belly visible at 30 d; primaries breaking from sheaths and crown feathers visible at 40 d; white cheek marks visible on males and underparts completely feathered at 45 d; body feathers complete except on back at 55 d; many birds (70%) able to fly and eye of males turning red at 60 d; most birds flying and Juvenile plumage almost complete at 70 d. Young birds are able to fly at 8–10 wk”

*Martin and Uhler (1939) say that while Spatterdock seeds have been found in the stomachs of some ducks, they are not a major food. Hepp and Bellrose (2020) do not list it at all as a Wood Duck food. Maybe the ducklings are just playing? But the adult photo makes that unlikely.

3 thoughts on “The Wood Ducks try again: a second brood”

  1. Do you think the ovary of the spatterdock must be extra nutritious? Cute little feather balls…I hope they listen to their parents & heed the ‘stay safe’ advice.

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  2. I have seen so few ducklings/goslings on Kezar this year. I think the presence of the nesting eagles makes them wisely cautious. Were these on your pond?

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