April 05, 2014

Wood Duck ›

Wood Duck

Some duck lovers will tell you about the extent of the Wood Duck's (Aix sponsa) beauty! In fact, this North American species is known as one of the most beautiful ducks in the world. The breeding plumage that the drake wears from October to June, surpasses the other ducks' in beauty, while the female, a hint less bright for sure, is nonetheless, the most colourful of her cousins. From a distance, the drake's chest and body look dark with pale flanks, a striped crest and a pale throat. With a closer look, its feathers are in fact iridescent, its beak black, red and white, and its eyes are remarkably red. The female displays a white surface around the eyes, including a pretty white tear close to its eye, a pale throat, and a shorter crest. In flight, the drake and the female orient their crest downward and are easy to recognize with their large, long square-shaped tail! The wood duck is set apart from its cousins because of its anterior vanes that look like it was sprayed with aluminum paint. The ducklings also stand out with their thinner, pointier, smoother and less bright wings during their first years of life.

Wood ducks are located in every province of Canada. Most of the time, wood ducks migrate to the United States in a really sparse manner, however, some winter in the extreme southern part of Ontario and in the south east of British Columbia.

This duck species is herbivorous or vegetarian. It eats common duckweed, truncheon small pieces, carex, grass, pondweeds, acorns and corn. Quickly after they are born, the ducklings need to eat proteins to maximize their growth.

In April, after a long winter, the wood duck migrates into its breeding land. Couples can come together in winter lands, before or during spring migration and at the nest location. Females often return near their place of birth to give birth sometimes accompanied by a drake from a farther region. The nests, preferably in trunk holes found in hollow trees, are located 1 to 15 meters above the ground. They are often close to a water body. Females are ready to reproduce at the age of one, once their nest is covered of down which the duck pulled out of its own chest. It lays 8 to 15 eggs that are dull white to cream yellow. The incubation period lasts 28 to 30 days. Once the eggs hatch, the little ducklings are already called to climb the nest entrance and fall down on the ground, most of the time unharmed. Later, the female leads them to the closest water body where they'll stay together for the next 8 to 9 weeks to feed. Soon after the incubation, the male wood duck, weary of the familial nest, will take more time with other drakes away from the nest and will search for an isolate, calm place, far from the nest to begin its mutation period. In August, their magnificent spring feathers will make way for a dull female-look-a-like plumage. The female will do the same a little after the ducklings' first flight. In the end of summer, the ducklings are ready to undertake the north part of their zone to pile on energy as fat for the autumn migration.