Wood Duck

Wood Duck, Vancouver Island, BC

Vancouver Island has a large population of breeding Wood Ducks that migrate here in the spring. The male Wood Duck has a crested head that is iridescent green and purple with a white stripe leading from the eye to the end of the crest, and another narrower white stripe from the base of the bill to the tip of the crest. The throat is white, and the chest is brown with white flecks, gradually grading into a white belly.

The bill is brightly patterned black, white, and red. The legs and feet are a dull straw yellow and the eye is red.

Females have a gray-brown head and neck with a brownish, green, glossed crest. A white teardrop-shaped patch surrounds the brownish-black eye. The throat is white, and the breast is grayish-brown speckled with white, fading into the white belly. The back is olive-brown with a shimmer of iridescent green. The bill is bluish-gray and the legs and feet are dull grayish-yellow.

Wood Ducks on the Pacific coast breed from California to British Columbia. In recent decades, the breeding range has expanded eastward into the Great Plains region following the development of wooded riparian corridors. Wood ducks prefer riparian habitats, wooded swamps, and freshwater marshes.

Wood Ducks nest in cavities near water, up to 20 meters high. The most common natural cavities are old Pileated Woodpecker holes, but artificial nest boxes will be used as well. The hen will line the cavity with down. The female lays up to 14 eggs and incubates them for up to 35 days. After the female begins incubation, the male heads off to molt. Within 24 hours of hatching, the young leap to the ground or water. The young can swim and feed themselves, but the female continues to tend them for 5 to 6 weeks. She leaves before they can fly, however. They fledge when they are 8 to 9 weeks old.

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