Backyard Buddies
Wood Duck

Photo: Tim Riding/OEH

Wood Duck

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The Wood Duck is Australia's most common duck and lives throughout Australia with the exception of particularly arid areas.

Their distinctive brown and white feathers make Wood Ducks easy for you to distinguish from other waterbirds, as they look completely unique. Male and female wood ducks are easy to tell apart because the male's feathers are much darker and more distinctive than the females.

As well as looking unusual, the Wood Duck is one of the very few ducks that doesn't really like swimming. While they often live close to water, you will rarely see them out paddling in ponds and rivers with the other ducks.

The Wood Duck prefers to dabble along the water's edge and forage for insects and water-loving plants. While they are nesting, they will often avoid the water altogether and seek out food in fields and paddocks near their nest for herbs and soft grasses. A favourite food of the Wood Duck is the soft, small clover plant.

Like most birds, the Wood Duck is preparing to become a parent during early spring. But they aren't nesting among the grasses - they nest in trees.

Wood Ducks form strong, life-long bonds and both parents help raise and care for their young once they've hatched.

While the female is up in the tree sitting on her 9 to 11 cream-coloured eggs, the male stands guard on the ground to fight off intruders who might threaten his family.

Once the chicks have hatched and are a few days old, their parents sit at the bottom of the tree and call for their chicks to join them. If this doesn't entice them out, the female will teach her ducklings to jump out of the nest by repeatedly flying between the nest and the ground, calling out to her chicks as she goes.

If you happen to be nearby when this event is taking place, you may be shocked at first to see tiny ducklings falling from a tree. Don't worry though, these little fluff balls are very light and once they've bounced a few times, they just shake themselves off.

Tip

It's easy to encourage Australian Wood Ducks into your garden, you just need to build or buy a suitable nest and place it high enough off the ground so that predators can't reach it.

Did you know?

To protect their young, Wood Duck parents sometimes perform a 'broken wing' routine, where they pretend to be maimed to lead predators away from their young. At other times they will freeze with their chicks and stick their necks out to distract and confuse predators.

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Quote

”Birds, bugs, lizards and penguins are my favourite Backyard Buddies – I like to find, watch and learn about what they do and what I can do to help them.“

Gus – 11 year old Backyard Buddy, NSW

Photo: OEH