Monday, May 20, 2013

Adventures With Wood Ducks -- Spring Nesting - By: Lowell Washburn

Of all the waterfowl species that migrate into Iowa each spring, perhaps none is more brilliant in color or elegant in style that the wood duck.  As unique as it is beautiful, the woodie has adopted a lifestyle like no other.  As equally at home on land or in the treetops as it is on water; wood ducks can run through cover like a pheasant or scurry along tree branches with the agility of a squirrel -- or so it appears.  But getting a good look at wood ducks can be a challenge: shy and secretive, the birds are most comfortable in dense and wooded wetland habitats where they're safe from prying eyes.  While bow hunting turkeys this spring, I dummied into a real spring wood duck Honey Hole -- a tiny pond located inside a woodland.  Although the pond was small -- maybe only 40 feet in diameter --  wood duck traffic was heavy.  During late April, the place was like a beehive with cavity searching pairs constantly coming and going from before sunrise until around 10 o'clock or so.  By the end of April, a majority of hens were busy sitting in cavity nests and the previous 50:50 sex ratio quickly became skewed toward drakes.  By mid-May, the balance had tipped even further with drakes accounting for most of the ducks visiting the pond.  On my last visit, I counted eleven loafing drakes but only two hens -- a good sign that the nesting season is going well so far.  Since female wood ducks have a profound tendency to return to their natal area, the number of pairs utilizing the pond this spring would make it appear that past nesting success has been high.  The two active nests I know of should be hatching this week. 

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