that lives in trees? Yes, a few of them do on a regular basis, and these
include the Bufflehead, Wood Duck, Goldeneyes and Mergansers. These ducks
commonly nest in tree cavities, which makes them good candidates for
incapable of excavating a cavity to live in as a woodpecker might, so they
search for an existing hole... and a rather large one at that. Their
acceptable cavities are fewer than ever, making them quite dependent on
human benefactors. Young forests, and those without woodpeckers or
flickers, will not have cavities suitable for ducks.
The Wood Duck is
commonly found throughout the eastern half of the US and in the Northwest.
One of our most colorful waterfowl, the Wood Duck, has been a victim of
loss of habitat, causing serious nesting problems. The cutting of forests
and drainage of swamps, as well as hunting, left Wood Duck populations at
a seriously low level early in this century.
1930s and 1940's a conservation effort was begun. Hunting was stopped, and
nesting boxes were put up to enable the Wood Duck to recover. This effort
was highly successful, and today the population is once again
Duck, appropriately for its name, lives in woodland ponds and streams
bordered by forests. In these secluded areas, a canoeist may come upon one
swimming ahead of the canoe. If they are startled, they sound their
characteristic "oo-eek" whistle and disappear into the woods.
Duck breeds April through June. Its nest is made of wood chips lined with
feathers from the female's breast. She lays 11 to 14 eggs which incubate
27 to 30 days. The little hatchlings spend only a day in their nest. After
hatching in the nesting box, they hear their mother calling outside the
nest. They climb up the inside of the box and, while they can barely walk
and cannot fly, they jump out to mother waiting on the ground. They fall
through the air, sometimes as much as 60 feet to the water or after one
bounce follow their mother to the water, where she can better protect them
seems to never hurt them. And they are quite capable of feeding themselves
after this first day. Mother's only job is to protect them.
Duck does not bring nesting material to the boxes. They merely line them
with down and breast feathers.
The Common Merganser
has a black head and a mostly black back, with striking white body and
tail. The female is a grayish color with a rust-colored crested head. The
Hooded Merganser has a large white crest on its black head that is its
distinctive marking, white breast and belly, and grayish sides with two
white stripes. The female is brownish all over with darker wings and a
light rusty-brown crest.
lays 8 to 12 eggs which hatch in 28 to 33 days. The breeding period is
from April through June, and only one brood is raised each year. They
migrate south in winter.
The Hooded Merganser
can be found in the extreme Northwest US, as well as, in most states east
of the Missouri River. They are the smallest merganser and are seen mostly
in fall and winter along rivers and lakes. The Common Merganser is found
in every state on lakes and along wooded rivers and ponds. In winter they
may be seen on salt bays as well.
The Goldeneye is a
striking duck 16" to 20" long with a white body and black back. Its name
arises from the golden eye which stands out prominently in the black head.
Barrow's Goldeneye has more black on the back, with a black and white
pattern on the wings. The head appears black from a distance, but is
actually a dark iridescent purple. Each has a white spot in front of the
eye, the Barrow's Goldeneye having a more crescent-shaped spot, while the
Common Goldeneye's spot is more round.
Goldeneye is found from Alaska across Canada and the northern states,
wintering as far south as the Gulf Coast. It nests near lakes and ponds,
and in winter prefers the coast.
Goldeneye is seen along the Pacific coast from Alaska to California, as
well as along the North Atlantic coast to Long Island. It prefers lakes at
high elevations and may be found in Colorado and other mountain
breeding period is from May into July. Eight to ten light olive green eggs
incubate for 30 to 32 days and only one brood is raised each year.
The Bufflehead is a
small duck with striking black and white markings. Its body is white, with
a black back. The head appears black from a distance, but has lovely
purple and green iridescent coloration with a large white patch behind the
eye. The female's white patch is smaller on the cheek.
Buffleheads are found in Canada and across the US, except in the
north central states and the Appalachians.
breeding period is from May through June, and only one brood is raised
each year. They migrate south or to coastal areas in winter.
Inside the duck
house, the ducklings have to climb from the nest to the entrance hole, so
the interior should have a rough surface. Nesting material must be
provided for insulation and to keep the eggs from rolling
the house slightly forward will help the youngsters to climb out, too. It
should be away from branches that may obstruct the entrance.
place to mount the house is on a pole in the water. This protects the
ducks from predators who live in areas near water, such as raccoons. It
should sit about 4 to 6 feet above the water. If it is placed at the
water's edge, the house should be 10 to 20 feet high.
around the pole or tree will discourage predators. Once the ducks have
begun a nest in the box, do not disturb it.
will lay her eggs in the nesting box, after which her mate has little to
do with her. After hatching, the young ducklings are safe from predators
only with mother in the water. So at the tender age of one day, they are
called by their mothers, and they leap from the entrance hole to the
water, or to the ground if the nest is in a tree over land. They follow
her around for about two weeks for protection, though they are quite
capable of feeding and caring for themselves at birth.
One of the
ducklings' common predators is the raccoon, and one way to eliminate this
threat is to place your duck house over water. It may be placed on a pole
in the bottom of a lake or pond, so that it sits about 4 to 6 feet above
the water's surface. If they are placed over land, a baffle should be made
around the tree or post to keep the raccoons from climbing up.