The Wood Duck

September 25, 2016

Loveliest of all waterfowl, the Wood Duck stands supreme, wrote Edward Howe Forbush in Birds of Massachusetts and other New England States (1925).  He writes “The male glides along proudly, his head ruffled and his crest distended, his scapular feathers raised and lowered at will, while his plumes flash with metallic luster whenever the sun’s rays sifting through the foliage intercept his course.”  At the time Forbush wrote this, the Wood Duck was just starting to increase in numbers here in New England – having been decimated by hunters almost to extinction. State and National laws were passed to protect the birds. The Wood Duck population increased when many of our National Wildlife Refuges, like Great Meadows in Concord began erecting nest boxes, Wood Ducks traditionally have nested in holes on trees and limbs.

At Mount Auburn Wood Ducks occur each spring and more often in the fall; they usually will flush when approached and give a plaintive whistle as they fly off. Auburn Lake is the most reliable location in the Cemetery to find a Woody; they like the overhanging branches of many of the trees around the pond to hide and feed. Standing at the bridge, scan around the pond carefully and then approach slowly to get a better look. This works for other stalkers like Green and Black-crowned Night- Heron as well. The scientific name of the Wood Duck is Aix sponsa, a hybrid of Greek and Latin, the translation is “waterfowl in wedding raiment”, very appropriate for this handsome duck.

About the Author: Bob Stymeist

Bob Stymeist is Bird Observer's Bird Sightings Compiler and a regular bird walk leader for the Friends of Mount Auburn. View all posts by Bob Stymeist →

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