Photo credit: Dan Lory
In this part of the world, there's not a bird much more flashy than the male Wood Duck. They're almost overdone, like a Kabuki actor's facial painting that exaggerates the expression. And then to make it even more comical, the male Wood Duck always seems to carry himself stiffly, as if the dry cleaners put too much starch in his neck feathers. The females are a drab brown--but even still, the bright eye-ring attracts attention.
The Wood Duck--as the name implies--is a woodland duck, at home in the forest more so than in large lakes and open water. In fact, it's classed as a perching duck, and it's not unusual to see it sitting high in a tree. They nest in deep wood cavities, and special claws on their feet enable the chicks to scale the inside of the tree and exit the nest when it's time to leave.
They spend the winter months in warmer territory further south, but they return when there is still ice on the ponds. If you're walking through the woods in March and are surprised by a duck suddenly taking off from a small pond or flooded area right in the middle of the woods, chances are good it's a Wood Duck.
As with all waterfowl, the chicks are irresistibly cute!
Dan's Feathursday Feature is a weekly contribution to the COS blog featuring the thoughts, insights and pictures of Chicago birder, Dan Lory on birds of the Chicago region.