The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

Rick Brockway

June 13, 2014

Beautiful, elegant wood ducks unlike any other

I spend a lot of time on my hill overlooking the pond, my meadows and an old pasture hillside. There’s always something to watch.

A bachelor group of long-bearded gobblers parade across the hillside every morning. A whitetail doe moves among the pasture pines followed by her young fawn. She has a special place that she hides the little fellow during the day, but she returns every once in a while to let him nurse. Other deer feed throughout the day, and there are even a couple of flocks of baby turkeys along with a handful of hens.

The other morning, just after daybreak, a colorful drake wood duck flew in and fed in the shallow water of my pond. He flew off after a while, but a hen woody soon appeared. She too bobbed up and down, feeding along the edge of the water. I watched her intently to see where she went after feeding.

The hen followed the same general route as her mate, heading across the swamp and disappearing into the trees.

Wood ducks like to nest in hollow portions of trees near ponds, beaver flows, swamps and creeks. They will use the holes created by woodpeckers if available or nest in man-made wood duck houses that are often placed along the edge of the water. A hen woody will lay seven to 15 white-tan eggs, and they incubate in about 30 days. The little ducklings hatch and jump out of the nest to the ground or water within a day of breaking out of their shells. They then make their way to the pond, swimming and finding their own food immediately.

The male wood duck is probably one of the most beautiful of the ducks that live here in the northeast. They have a glossy green head cut-in with white stripes. Their chestnut-colored breast contrasts their buff sides. The drake’s eyes are stunning red as well. The beautiful plumage of the male wood duck makes them highly prized by fly tyers.

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Rick Brockway

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