Thursday, June 12, 2014

Wood Ducks in a tree...

…when you hear a noise, look up, and see a male and female Wood Duck perched in a tree above you, you can't help but smile (or even, as in my case, laugh out loud). It is fun seeing these dignified and beautiful birds romping around in a tree. It shouldn't be surprising though—they nest in cavities in trees, but if you're not used to seeing "ducks out of water," it can take you by surprise...

Male and female Wood Ducks perch high above the boardwalk at Magee Marsh (near Toledo, OH).
Male Wood Ducks are such dapper fellows, impeccably groomed with a flair that surpasses all of their other ducky cousins. Their outrageously colorful plumage complements the female's understated and elegant markings, and they both possess a sophisticated charm that belies their ability to perch in trees!

When you see those little webbed feet wrapped around a branch, you have to smile!
Wood Ducks have small claws on their toes that enable them to climb in trees and perch easily, which comes in handy when choosing a nesting cavity! Since Wood Ducks don't have the ability to drill out their own holes like a woodpecker, they often use abandoned woodpecker holes (or man-made nesting boxes). They can use cavities with entrances as small as four inches, and they often prefer the smaller size because it helps keep out predators (source: Cornell, All About Birds). When baby Wood Ducks venture out of their nest (only a day after hatching), they truly make a leap of faith. Mama Wood Duck whistles for them below on the  ground or in the water if the nest is above water, coaxing them out of their safe, warm home. They fling themselves clear of the entrance and fall...and fall...and fall to the ground or water below. They can endure tremendous falls, bouncing like balls when they hit the ground or bobbing like corks when they hit the water. I've read reports of drops from 50-60 feet up to 290 feet (Cornell). Their fluffy feathers and the fact that their bodies are still mostly composed of cartilage instead of bone keeps them safe.

For a few videos showing baby Wood Ducks dropping out of their nesting cavity, click here and here.

...the head-on view of our Woody's face. I love the red eyes, red bill and green forehead and crown from this angle!
Woodies live in wooded swamps, in woods along rivers and streams, and in bottomland forests, which is why I see them any time I canoe the Little Miami River in the summer. Click here for an earlier post of an encounter Rick and I had with juvenile Wood Ducks on the Little Miami River.

I took these photos on May 13, 2014 while I was at the Biggest Week in American Birding at Magee Marsh in Toledo, OH.

In the Cincinnati area, it's easy to find Wood Ducks along the Little Miami River. Click here to learn more about the scenic Little Miami.

15 comments:

natureismytherapy.com said...

I love that head-on view of the male! They look so different that way. Very sketchable....
~Kim

Sue said...

Love the "eye" you're getting.

Montanagirl said...

They are a marvelous looking duck. Such beauties. LOVE those videos!!

Laure Ferlita said...

And how was the great week in birding?!! Looks like a fun time if these images are anything to go by.

Hope it was successful, but more importantly, I hope you had a blast!

Frank said...

Kelly, I am fortunate to have their close cousins, the Mandarin, residing in trees on my local patch but they love to hide way up amongst the foliage. You did well to get those images.

Kathy A. Johnson said...

What darlings! I'm going to check out the videos of the babies, too.

Over the winter, we had some ducks in our neighborhood that were perching on a fence that was next to one of our ponds. It was the first time I'd ever seen a duck perched on something like that--it was quite a surprise. I believe they were black bellied whistling ducks--I looked them up when I got home!

Mary Ann Gieszelmann said...

I love the videos of the ducklings bailing out of their tree-nest. They don't give it much thought--they just follow mama and Mother Nature!

Elaine said...

How fun to see these guys in the trees! Amazing that the babies can survive such leaps.

Roy Norris said...

They are so colourful for ducks Kelly. Its a great place for ducks to nest in safety, but I pitty the poor young when they have to indulge in a spot of Free fall.{:))

Janice K said...

My favorite ducks. I usually enjoy seeing them in our valley on the ponds made by the spring rains every spring, but never so close as your pictures. They are one of the first signs of Spring for me.

KaHolly said...

I've never seen Wood Ducks in a tree, only on man-made houses. How funny they look. The male is indeed a dandy! I think the only ducks that are more handsome are Mandarin. I enjoyed reading all about them, thank you for sharing.

SouthernHeart said...

Beautiful photos as always! After a long break from the internet and blogging, I'm back to enjoying favorite sites - yours among them.

Blessings,
Dianne
www.sweetjourneyhome.com

Kelly said...

...thanks, everyone! I remember learning about these little chicks and their first big plunge as a kid. I was so amazed. The behavior still amazes me...as I see it does everyone else! :-)

Kathie Brown said...

Kelly, though I know they nest in trees, I have never seen wood ducks there. Great shots! I have seen footage of the ducklings leaping from the nest on a PBS special. It was amazing.

Mike Gurung said...

Cool sight! It's nice that those birds has found a habitat to launch onto in no time, enough to be a pleasant part of your ecosystem as much as good visuals. It would be a shame to lose them, along with the tree, which is something worth keeping and preserving indeed. Good day!

Mike Gurung @ Bay Area Tree Specialists