Wood ducks have visited several times in the last few days. On the 15th a hen was in the west nest box for many minutes, checking it out. I’ve created a video of her, digging, wiggling, investigating, spinning around, pretending to cover up eggs.
She did not lay an egg. It would be surprisingly early if she had done that. During the next week or two the hens typically are just investigating possible nest sites.
Here’s a link to the video:
The nest boxes are set up now and the cameras are back online. Go to the main birdsgv.com page for links to the cameras. HOWEVER: during the next couple of weeks you’ll be lucky to see anything other than wood shavings at the bottom of an empty nest box.
That’s because the ducks visit very briefly at this time of year. A hen will go in and toss the wood chips around with beak and feet, sit and wiggle, turn a bit, sit and wiggle, but then after a few minutes she’s gone. They’re just shopping, kind of like what you might do if you went to the auto show and tried sitting in some cars. Later when the ducks start laying they also aren’t in the nest box very long: maybe 10 minutes to a half hour typically; sometimes longer and occasionally a duck will rest in the nest overnight although she isn’t incubating. After all eggs have been laid and one hen starts actual incubation you can count on seeing the duck in the nest for about 20 hours on every day.
Your best time to check right now is in the morning. Not at dawn – not real early. They wait for full daylight before moving around because they are in the middle of the food chain and want to easily see any creatures that might eat them!
Today for the first time we heard a few of the distinctive plaintive calls that are so easy to recognize – here’s an audio clip – and when we looked out the window we saw a pair of wood ducks in the back yard! The hen was on top of the low electrical box that provides camera power (yellow arrow), looking up at the bare post (blue arrow) where the nest box goes. It looked like she was wondering “WHERE is my Nest!?” I wish I’d captured that shot but by the time I had the camera they were walking away. They flew off but then came back into the yard again a few minutes later.
I’ll get the nest boxes set up today and the cameras will be online again too, very soon. I’ll let you know.
Right now, 7:15am, the hen is out for breakfast. The ducklings will leave sometime this morning.
What to expect:
Out to breakfast: in the early morning the hen 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 d 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 typically (two weeks ago it was an exception: 11 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 and the latest was a few minutes after noon. Those are both unusual. Typically it’s sometime between 8 and 10am. These ducklings hatched mostly last night so they are perhaps more ready-to-go than usual so she might go early. If you watch it’s often lots of waiting, then 5 minutes of action.
I hope you enjoy watching!
On Saturday we had not seen any wood ducks, but suddenly on Sunday there were 7 in the back yard: 4 males and 3 females.