Wood Ducks Are Pairing Up

by Larry Jordan on November 7, 2010

Wood Duck photos by Larry Jordan

I came across a paddling of Wood Ducks a couple of weeks ago at Anderson River Park.  This is the time of year when these beautiful ducks are pairing up and strengthening their pair bonds.

They are fun to watch as they perform courtship displays that include preening and bathing together.  There are also aggressive displays as unpaired birds interact with male and female ducks that have already paired up.  This is a male Wood Duck rushing another male that got a bit too friendly with his mate.

A few juvenile males were hanging around on the lower tree branches just above the water, taking in the show or more likely taking notes on which behaviors were the most successful.

Wood Ducks nest in preformed cavities, mostly created when branches break off tree trunks and the heart wood rots out creating a cavity.  They don’t excavate cavities themselves but they will take readily to man-made nest boxes and occasionally use cavities excavated by Pileated Woodpeckers1.

The female broods the commonly 8 to 15 eggs by herself.  Here is a photo of one of my friend Steve’s Wood Duck boxes showing a female incubating eggs.  You can see that there are some wood chips in the bottom of the box but it is mostly down from the female’s breast that she adds as the clutch nears completion.

Artificial nest boxes helped bring the Wood Duck population back following severe declines from over hunting, deforestation and loss of habitat in the early 1900’s.

At this point, I have to insert my all time favorite bird video showing baby Wood Ducks on their first flight, or I guess I should say, drop, from a natural tree cavity to their mother below.

If you are not smiling after watching this video, there is something wrong with you.

Enjoy a few more photos I took of these beautiful ducks that day.  The vibrant colors of the male in breeding plumage make this bird easy to identify.

The female Wood Duck is beautiful in her own right

But I leave you with the more colorful drake swimming

And just showing off.

For more great bird photos, check out Bird Photography Weekly.

References: 1 Birds of North America Online: Issue No. 169, Authors: Hepp, Gary R., and Frank C. Bellrose

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Birding is Fun! November 7, 2010 at 4:53 am

Great post Larry. Your posts are often like a multi-media magazine in and of itself. Wood Ducks are beautiful and those chicks are so cool!


OpposableChums November 7, 2010 at 9:17 am

Great pix of some unspeakably beautiful ducks. I even liked the video, despite the dumb narration.

Thanks for the post.


Mick November 7, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Great photos of the Wood Ducks and I love the video! I am always intrigued when the common names used for birds are the same, and the species in different parts of the world are so very different. Those photos don’t look a bit like wood ducks out here 🙂


Larry November 8, 2010 at 5:17 am

@ Robert thank you for those kind words. Watching bird behavior is the most fun part of birding for me so I love to share that experience

@Jason I hear you but I’m sure NatGeo was considering little kids watching with that narration 😉

@Mick those Aussie ducks are quite different! They look like they would need a bit larger nest box than ours


Pat ODonnell November 8, 2010 at 7:32 am

Wood Ducks are absolutely gorgeous- nice images and post about this waterfowl species that reminds me of a super fancy, regal Mallard.


NatureFootstep November 8, 2010 at 8:53 am

this duck looks like a painting. We have a similar one but it is rare, I have not had the opportunity to see it. I loved the video. It was so wonderful to see them plopp down into the water. 🙂


Eddie Callaway (Birdfreak.com) November 8, 2010 at 9:02 am

Beautiful shots of beautiful birds. Sometimes you need to take a double look to realize that Wood Ducks aren’t just some artist’s wild creation.


MaineBirder November 8, 2010 at 10:04 am

Beautiful indeed! Wonderful photo series Larry!


dreamfalcon November 8, 2010 at 12:26 pm

oh yeah – Wood Ducks are just amazing. There are some in Switzerland but they are escapees – but the color of the drake really takes your breath away! Beautiful!


Kyle November 8, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Great shots of the pairing couples, Larry. Seeing wood ducks during mating season is always a treat! And as always, I learn something new every time I visit the Birder’s Report.

By the way, the kids really enjoyed the duckling video. Thanks for including that!


Larry November 8, 2010 at 8:42 pm

@Pat thanks, that’s a pretty good description 🙂

@NF thank you very much. Your similar bird, would that be the Mandarin Duck?

@Eddie so true! Thanks for hosting BPW!

@John thank you very much

@Natalie they are amazing and skittish here in the US

@Kyle thanks for the very kind words. I’m glad your kids liked it. Guess I’m just a kid at heart 😉


gwendolen November 9, 2010 at 9:28 am

LOL. Love that video. Such beautiful ducks too.


Mike B. November 9, 2010 at 9:50 pm

OK, OK, I smiled. Those are some insanely cool looking birds. It is hard to imagine what evolutionary tide helped develop those colors.


Larry November 10, 2010 at 5:31 am

@Gwen they are beautiful aren’t they?

@Mike the drakes are pretty wildly patterned and colored, like they were painted by Picasso


Phil November 10, 2010 at 8:33 am

You took some really good pictures of the Wood Ducks Larry. Such a pretty duck and your photos did them full justice.


Kat November 10, 2010 at 11:37 am

Such terrific photos of wood ducks. In a couple of these, he seems like he’s posing perfectly for you.


Larry November 11, 2010 at 10:54 pm

@Phil thank you very much

@Kat the only way for me to get these shots was digiscoping. In the past, trying to get close enough with my 400mm lens was impossible. I find Wood Ducks to be very skittish when I have come across them in the wild


Jill November 13, 2010 at 6:50 am

love this post, Larry. Wood Ducks are fun little guys! Tons of great photos and info 🙂 I need to catch up on your blog, sorry I haven’t been here lately!


Amy November 14, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Really, really nice series on the Wood Duck, Larry. While I’ve seen ducklings before, I’ve never seend juveniles like the ones you show in the 4th picture. Usually Wood Ducks seem shy and secretive – love the action in the 3rd pic!


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