An Unexpected, but Welcome, Visitor

An unexpected visitor has made its way over to the pond at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo. This gorgeous male wood duck was spotted paddling about in the open water just last week. Spotting this bird, with his exuberantly colorful plumage, is sure to brighten even the dreariest winter day. This flashy duck draws your eyes with iridescent greens and purples, a spotted chest and a flamboyant crest that extends out from the back of his head.

In the late 1800s, the beauty of this bird was a factor in its precipitous decline; wood ducks were hunted not only for their meat but also for their feathers. Combined with habitat loss, these factors contributed to the loss of wood duck populations throughout their range. The birds were nearly eliminated from Illinois.

Amazingly, the population was able to make a comeback in the 1900s due to thoughtful conservation efforts. They are currently one of the more common duck species for our area. They’re certainly a species I look forward to seeing each year, and Nature Boardwalk is prime habitat for these birds.

Wood ducks typically pair up early, around January, and fly to their breeding grounds already coupled. Usually these birds don’t arrive at their breeding sites in Illinois until late February. Last year the first wood ducks we saw in the spring didn’t show up until early March; the last winter sighting was on November 28.

The weather has been so strange this year that I really can’t say what this bird is doing, but hopefully he’ll find a mate soon if he doesn’t already have one. Spring is just around the corner.

Stop by Nature Boardwalk today to see if you can spot this beautiful bird.

Vicky Hunt

Comments

Beautiful duck. Any chance they hang out in my neck of the woods in Eastern Washington?

Vicky responds: "Yes, wood ducks can be found in eastern Washington. In fact, they are fairly widespread across North America. A range map for the species can be found in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Bird Guide at http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/wood_duck/id/ac. Good luck spotting one!"

Thanks Vicky, I'll be on the lookout for them on my morning walks along the Columbia River.

Hi Vicky!

I haven't spotted the wood duck at the Nature Boardwalk yet, but I did see two male wood ducks hanging out over at the North Pond on Tuesday. I didn't see any females, but hopefully they're on their way!

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