A pair of hooded mergansers were here this morning. The female stayed on top of the nest box for almost an hour and looked in often. A hooded merganser will sometimes lay eggs in a wood duck nest (and vice versa, more on that is here) and she was considering it. But whenever the merganser bent down from the edge of the roof to look in she was greeted by an open bill and hissing from the wood duck inside and she never tried to enter. During this time the male merganser waited in the creek. The male ducks stay close to their partner while the hen is laying both for mating and to fend off other males but after that they aren’t around and have no role in caring for the ducklings.
Incubation has begun in the west nest box. It sometimes can be hard to tell since ducks will sometimes rest there overnight without actually starting to incubate the eggs. But this time it’s clear: she has surrounded herself with down that she has plucked to allow body heat to get to the eggs and that she uses to tuck in around herself while on the nest and to cover the eggs when she leaves. And she has stayed on the nest for 16 hours Friday to Saturday, 18 hours Saturday to Sunday, and has been there for 22 hours since yesterday. Thus I’d say incubation started on Friday. Since wood duck incubation time is 30 days, plus or minus a couple of days, the ducklings should hatch sometime around May 7th.
I’ll get a count of the number of eggs the next time I see that she’s not in the nest. You should be able to see her almost any time that you check the camera during the next month. She will leave for only an hour or a few to get some food, once or twice per day.
I know you’ve always wanted to know what a wood duck sounds like when it sneezes.
As of this evening there were 9 eggs in the west nest. Still none in the east although ducks do go in there for a few minutes every morning. This happened last year too, except the other way around when they didn’t use the west nest box until later. I think maybe they’re attracted to where the activity is, and once that starts it keeps itself going.
We’ve seen 4 ducks in the nests recently. One of them has a mostly dark bill and is very chatty, always clucking and chirping. Another has pretty much claimed the west nest as her own: she’s in there all morning. She has a slight lighter color at the end of her bill. And then there’s Arabelle who is unmistakable with her arrow shape on her bill, and one other duck, seen rarely, that also has a multi-colored bill but not as distinctively shaped as Arabelle’s.
Arabelle dumped an egg in the west nest yesterday while the other duck was in there. This was preceded by the most energetic and drawn-out battle that I’ve seen, as the one in the nest tried to get Arabelle to leave. After more than five minutes of tussling (during which nobody was hurt) Arabelle finally popped out an egg and got out of there. The resident duck dutifully tucked it in with the others. I made a video of all the action.
The wood ducks have been busy each morning lately: lots of action for a few hours. Usually there are 4 pairs in the yard and many attempts to get into the West nest box. One duck or another has been in there resting or laying – 5 eggs as of today – during most of the time from about 7:30 to 10:00. They are in the East box too, but not as often or as long and so far there are no eggs there.
I opened the side door and put the 5 eggs on top of the wood shavings for the first photo below. (I put them back and the ducks can’t tell that I did anything.) The duck with the “arrow bill”, Arabelle (second photo) was in there for an hour or so starting at 7:30, and then another duck also with a distinctive mark on her bill but much more subtle (third photo), was there for more than an hour.
Here’s a video of the second duck defending her place in the west nest box vs. another duck, unseen, who is hanging on and leaning in the entrance (30 seconds).