Until next year

This morning the four wood duck ducklings jumped from the East nest at about 11:00am (we were up at 7:00, watching, waiting, waiting, waiting …) and that’s the end of nesting for this year. It included:

  • May 20 – East nest: 17 Wood duck ducklings
  • May 23 West nest: 10 Wood duck ducklings
  • June 8 – South nest: 2 Hooded merganser duckings
  • July 9 – East nest: 4 Wood duck ducklings

If you go to the web site main page and scroll down a bit, you’ll see the duckling count for each nest box for each year starting in 2016. We had wood ducks here before that – my first video called “A Wood Duck Story was made in 2010 – but I didn’t keep totals from the earlier years. Starting in 2016 and up through this year a whole lot of little ducklings have jumped into the big world from here: 304 wood ducks and 28 hooded mergansers!


I also made 2 videos this year:

“Raccoon Inside!” – 7 minutes – a raccoon got completely inside of the Hooded merganser nest box but got only one egg. It’s kind of amusing because the raccoon got stuck halfway through the nest box opening both going in and coming out again.

“Two Hooded Merganser Ducklings” – 3 1/2 minutes – the live video stream was not working well on jump day so I made this video from the camera recordings.

As usual links to those are on the web site “Videos” page. The newer videos are at the top.


I hope you enjoyed watching this year!


Ducklings have hatched!

Ducklings in the East nest hatched this morning.

The camera recording showed that the mother was out of the nest with no ducklings hatched yet at 7:00 but I’ve now seen at least two. They will have all day today and also tonight to get ready so they should jump tomorrow (Saturday) morning.

  • I’ll set up the outside camera today and it will be online by this evening, ready for tomorrow morning.

Note: the inside camera is usually showing gray-scale (as above) instead of color because the trees overhead are full of leaves and often there is not enough light in the nest box for color. The camera then uses its night-time lights which automatically switches it to black-and-white mode, because the infrared lights do not show color.


What to expect on Jump Day:
Out to breakfast: in the early morning the mother duck often leaves for 10 minutes or a half hour, to go out for a last breakfast without all of the kids.
Watching for danger: When she thinks it might be time to go she’ll jump up and sit in the nest box doorway and watch. She’ll sit there for 2 minutes … or 15, and after that she may decide not to go and settle into the nest again for while. Repeat. Sometimes repeat and repeat.
Time to leave: When she’s ready and thinks it’s safe, she’ll drop down below the nest box and call using a special and fairly soft pulsing sound. The ducklings respond by peeping loudly, jumping around kind of like popcorn, and climbing up to leap from the doorway. 
On their way: From when she starts until the nest box is empty is only a few minutes. When the ducklings are all out (she keeps calling as long as she hears their loud peeping sounds) then she leads them away into the creek and they never return.

When: The earliest they’ve left is a bit before 7:00 CDT and the latest was a few minutes after noon. Typically it’s sometime between 8 and 10am CDT.  
I hope you enjoy watching!

4 Ducklings Soon!

For the past month a wood duck has been incubating 4 eggs in the East nest box. All four were pipped this evening whereas yesterday the eggs were all intact so this is new as of today. The ducklings pip their eggs (break them in one tiny place) about 24 to 48 hours before they hatch.


  • 24 hours – if they hatch late on Friday, overnight, or quite early on Saturday then they would leave the nest Sunday morning. They usually spend at least 20 hours in the nest drying and getting bigger and stronger before they’re ready to go.
  • 48 hours – if they hatch about a day later than that, then they could leave Monday morning.

When they have hatched I will post another message, of course. As usual I plan to have an outside camera pointed at the nest box for Jump Day so that you can see the ducklings from both inside and outside of the nest.

East nest – 4 eggs – July ducklings

I candled the eggs in the East nest this evening and good news: the four layed by the incubating duck are developing. The fifth one was in the nest more than a week before the incubating duck started laying, probably provided by another duck. It was not developed at all so I removed it.

This picture was taken today. There’s a very bright light beneath the eggs, shining up through holes that the eggs are sitting in. Both of these have developing ducklings as indicated by the distinct dark areas. (An undeveloped egg is bright with no dark areas.)

It’s hard to know when incubation started sometimes. For the East nest my best guess is that we’ll see 4 ducklings sometime between July 7th and 14th. As that approaches I will try to check the eggs each day because when they are slightly cracked (pipped) that means hatching will occur within 24 to 48 hours. I’ll let you know, of course.

A hooded merganser checked out the South nest a couple of times last week and I got a picture of her. She hasn’t been around this week. The West and South nests seem to be done for the year.

Is she doing it right?

The East nest duck is now incubating 5 eggs. It’s been 5 for a couple of days so I think maybe she’s done laying. But it’s been unusual. Why? Typical nesting behavior is:

  1. Visit the nest briefly for about a week. Kick shavings, wiggle around, settle in, try it out for somewhere between 5 and 60 minutes each time, then leave until the next day.
  2. Assuming the nest is approved start laying 8 to 12 eggs at a rate of 1 per day, sometimes skipping a day.
  3. As the last day of egg laying approaches, start feathering the nest.
  4. When laying is done the feather blanket is ready and the duck’s brood patch is bare (i.e. a place on her breast now has no feathers). Start incubating, staying in the nest for 20+ hours per day.

Instead the East nest duck has done this:

  1. Stay in the nest for 10 to 20 hours each day for more than a week. Heavily feather the nest and act as if incubating but with no eggs at all during this time. [We’ve seen this before, where a duck has a nesting instinct but no eggs and gives up after a week or so and doesn’t return.]
  2. Lay the first egg and appear to be incubating it, staying in the nest 20+ hours.
  3. Continue this for subsequent eggs over several days.

It’s not easy to know when incubation begins sometimes. A duck may stay in the nest most of the day and overnight, but just rest in there without actually heating the eggs. In times of lower outdoor temperatures it’s easy to tell this is happening because when I check the nest the eggs are quite cold. Lately I’m less sure. They’ve been kind of warm but the days have been warm too. Today there was less doubt: the eggs seemed toasty. So when did incubation begin? Yesterday? Several days ago? Were the earliest eggs incubated days before the latest? Will they hatch together?

Hopefully she’s got this. Every year I guess wrong about something or think that I know something and then learn something else. But like the weather on TV a forecast is necessary, so: I’ll estimate there will be somewhere between one and five ducklings sometime between the 7th and 14th of July.

One egg (top) is from a different wood duck I think because it’s slightly smaller and a lighter color than the other four.