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.

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