Stumbling across these Wood Duck chicks (Aix sponsa) was a stroke of sheer luck. I caught a glimpse of one duckling rustling around in the meadow grass while on a short hike with some friends, and couldn't resist stopping to watch them parade around. Since their mother was nowhere to be seen, we didn't want to disturb these little guys too much. But luckily I was able to get a shot of them marching about in a row before leaving them to their business!
Unlike many other species of ducks, wood ducks have highly developed toes and claws that allow them to perch in trees. Breeding pairs typically make nests in cavities high up in trees, where females lay anywhere from 6 to 40 eggs (averages around 15). While they prefer spots closer to water, these avians are true 'ducks of the forest', and have been known to nest as far as a mile from any water sources.
Chicks like those pictured above are born with feathers. Shortly after birth, they jump from the heights of the nest down to the forest floor, then proceed to migrate to the nearest pond, lake, or swamp, where they are raised by their mother into adolescence. Young woodies have a diet that consists mainly of insects and small fish.
Fun Fact: With their vibrant green plumage and colorful accents, adult male wood ducks are widely regarded as one of the most beautiful ducks in North America. Their colorful display only lasts during mating season, however. During the remainder of the year, the male duck grows a new, more muted set of gray, blue, and white feathers. Females keep the same set of grayish-brown feathers year-round, and can be identified by the ring of white that encircles their eyes.
*Conservation Alert*: Due to the fact that wood ducks nest in trees, they've had more success than any other duck at adapting to man-made conservation "nest boxes". Building a nest box is a relatively simple process, and can help wood ducks cope with deforestation. For instructions on how to build one in your own back yard, check out the tutorials here or here.
Photographs taken May 2015 - Argyle, NY