From col. F. M. Woodruff.
THE WOOD DUCK.
A great many people think that this is the most beautiful bird of North America. It is called Wood Duck because it usually makes its nest in the hollow of a tree that overhangs the water. If it can find a squirrel’s or woodpecker’s hole in some stump or tree, there it is sure to nest.
A gentleman who delighted in watching the Wood Duck, tells about one that built her nest in the hollow of a tree that hung over the water. He was anxious to see how the little ones, when hatched, would get down.
In a few days he knew that the ducklings were out, for he could hear their pee, pee, pee. They came to the edge of the nest, one by one, and tumbled out into the water.
You know a duck can swim as soon as it comes out of the egg.
Sometimes the nest is in the hollow of a tree that is a short distance from the water.
Now how do you suppose the ducklings get there as they do?
If the nest is not far from the ground, the mother bird lets them drop from it on the dried grass and leaves under the tree. She then carries them in her bill, one by one, to the water and back to the nest.
If the nest should be far from the ground, she carries them down one by one.
This same gentleman says that he once saw a Wood Duck carry down thirteen little ones in less than ten minutes. She took them in her bill by the back of the neck or the wing.
When they are a few days old she needs only to lead the way and the little ones will follow.
The Wood Duck is also called Summer Duck. This is because it does not stay with us during the winter, as most ducks do.
It goes south to spend the winter and comes back north early in the spring.
THE WOOD DUCK.
UITE the most beautiful of the native Ducks, with a a richness of plumage which gives it a bridal or festive appearance, this bird is specifically named Spousa, which means betrothed. It is also called Summer Duck, Bridal Duck, Wood Widgeon, Acorn Duck and Tree Duck.
It is a fresh water fowl, and exclusively so in the selection of its nesting haunts. It inhabits the whole of temperate North America, north to the fur countries, and is found in Cuba and sometimes in Europe. Its favorite haunts are wooded bottom-lands, where it frequents the streams and ponds, nesting in hollows of the largest trees. Sometimes a hole in a horizontal limb is chosen that seems too small to hold the Duck’s plump body, and occasionally it makes use of the hole of an Owl or Woodpecker, the entrance to which has been enlarged by decay.
Wilson visited a tree containing a nest of a Wood or Summer Duck, on the banks of Tuckahoe river, New Jersey. The tree stood on a declivity twenty yards from the water, and in its hollow and broken top, about six feet down, on the soft decayed wood were thirteen eggs covered with down from the mother’s breast. The eggs were of an exact oval shape, the surface smooth and fine grained, of a yellowish color resembling old polished ivory. This tree had been occupied by the same pair, during nesting time, for four successive years. The female had been seen to carry down from the nest thirteen young, one by one, in less than ten minutes. She caught them in her bill by the wing or back of the neck, landed them safely at the foot of the tree, and finally led them to the water. If the nest be directly over the water, the little birds as soon as hatched drop into the water, breaking their fall by extending their wings.
Many stories are told of their attachment to their nesting places. For several years one observer saw a pair of Wood Ducks make their nest in the hollow of a hickory which stood on the bank, half a dozen yards from a river. In preparing to dam the river near this point, in order to supply water to a neighboring city, the course of the river was diverted, leaving the old bed an eighth of a mile behind, notwithstanding which the ducks bred in the old place, the female undaunted by the distance which she would have to travel to lead her brood to the water.
While the females are laying, and afterwards when sitting, the male usually perches on an adjoining limb and keeps watch. The common note of the drake is peet-peet, and when standing sentinel, if apprehending danger, he makes a noise not unlike the crowing of a young cock, oe-eek. The drake does not assist in sitting on the eggs, and the female is left in the lurch in the same manner as the Partridge.
The Wood Duck has been repeatedly tamed and partially domesticated. It feeds freely on corn meal soaked in water, and as it grows, catches flies with great dexterity.
WOOD DUCK.—Aix sponsa. Coloring varied; most beautiful of ducks. Other names: “Summer Duck,” “Bridal Duck,” “Wood Widgeon,” “Tree Duck.”
Range—North America. Breeds from Florida to Hudson’s Bay; winters south.
Nest—Made of grasses, usually placed in a hole in tree or stump.
Eggs—Eight to fourteen; pale, buffy white.
The Wood Duck is in the Anatidae – Ducks, Geese & Swans Family. The Aix genus includes the Wood Duck and also the beautiful Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata). “The adult male has distinctive multicoloured iridescent plumage and red eyes,with a distinctive white flare down the neck. The female, less colourful, has a white eye-ring and a whitish throat. Both adults have crested heads.” When the male is in non-breeding plumage the colors are more like the female, but with some differences. Here is a photo taken yesterday at Lake Morton of a male Wood Duck.
Here is a picture of the female I also photographed yesterday.
The male’s call is a rising whistle, “jeeeeee”; the females utter a drawn-out, rising squeal, “oo-eek,” when flushed, and a sharp “cr-r-ek, cr-e-ek” for an alarm call.
Their breeding habitat is wooded swamps, shallow lakes, marshes or ponds, and creeks in eastern North America, the west coast of the United States and western Mexico. They usually nest in cavities in trees close to water, although they will take advantage of nesting boxes in wetland locations if available. Females line their nests with feathers and other soft materials, and the elevation provides some protection from predators. Unlike most other ducks, the Wood Duck has sharp claws for perching in trees and can, in southern regions, produce two broods in a single season—the only North American duck that can do so.
The population of the Wood Duck was in serious decline in the late 19th century as a result of severe habitat loss and market hunting both for meat and plumage for the ladies’ hat market in Europe. By the beginning of the 20th century Wood Ducks had virtually disappeared from much of their former range. In response to the Migratory Bird Treaty established in 1916 and enactment of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, wood duck populations began to recover slowly. By ending unregulated hunting and taking measures to protect remaining habitat, wood duck populations began to rebound in the 1920s. The development of the artificial nesting box in the 1930s gave an additional boost to Wood Duck production.
Landowners as well as park and refuge managers can encourage Wood Ducks by building Wood Duck nest boxes near lakes, ponds, and streams. Fulda, Minnesota has adopted the Wood Duck as an unofficial mascot, and a large number of nest boxes can be found in the area.
Expanding North American Beaver populations throughout the Wood Duck’s range have also helped the population rebound as beavers create an ideal forested wetland habitat for Wood Ducks.
The above article is an article in the monthly serial for May 1897 “designed to promote Knowledge of Bird-Live.” These include Color Photography, as they call them, today they are drawings. There are at least three Volumes that have been digitized by Project Gutenberg.
To see the whole series of – Birds Illustrated by Color Photography – Revisited
(Information from Wikipedia and other internet sources)
Next Article – The Anhinga or Snake Bird
Previous Article – The Canvas-Back Duck
Wood Duck – All About Birds
Wood Duck – Wikipedia
Bet you never knew ducklings bounce – by xaandria86 – YouTube