Wood duck MMA

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.

A popular nest box

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).

Hooded Merganser

(On a web page the pictures above scroll sideways.)

First picture: A hooded merganser female was in the west nest box this morning. It would be fun to have merganser ducklings again! Hooded mergansers will lay eggs in wood duck nests, and vice versa. Here’s more information about that. Also both the 2017 and 2018 logs have pictures and stories about the hooded merganser adults and ducklings (scroll down on those pages to find them).

Second picture: Sleepy duck, such good colors.

Third picture: There are now 2 eggs in the West nest. They are wood duck eggs, the merganser didn’t leave any yet.


Ducks are visiting each morning but only for a few minutes. One did spend an hour in West nest box today, but no eggs. So who’s Arabelle? She’s a duck that nested here last year. Others have returned too, I’m sure, but it’s hard to tell them apart. She’s easy to recognize so we got to “know” her. We called her “arrow” or “arrow bill” for a while – see the picture – and the latter evolved into Arabelle.

Typical wood duck on the left, Arabelle on the right. All photos from 3/28/19.

There were two hens in the West nest at 10:00 today. They squabbled a bit at first but then settled down quietly and even seemed kind of affectionate. Below one is gently nibbling the other. After a couple of minutes the second one left again. The first remained in the nest box for an hour resting, often closing her eyes. I checked the nest after she left: no eggs yet. Her mate stayed on the roof of the nest box during most of this time.

Short video – looking for a good place.

Visitors on March 26th

If you watch the live cameras it’s very hard to see anything interesting right now. This early in the season it’s normal for the hens to drop in for just a few minutes, rummage around a bit to check things out, and then leave. But the cameras use motion to trigger a recording and it’s easy for me to find the those few minutes, so I’ve created a short video of what was happening yesterday. Today was similar, although yesterday there was an extra visitor! …

3 minutes