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My Life’s Birds: #89

May 7, 2008

September 21, 1993 – Christian Co, Mo – On of our favorite summer activities in Linden was taking the canoe up the Finley River. An old dam slowed the river’s current some so that the upper part, where we would put in, was more like a small lake. But if you paddled up around the bend where the current picked up and the river narrowed and most importantly, the houses stopped, you would often startle a heron or two and if you were really lucky, a Wood Duck.

Back when I began birding Wood Ducks were still not the sure thing they seem to be today. Maybe it’s just because back in Missouri we were on the western frontier of their historic range rather then where I am now, right smack in the middle in North Carolina. They certainly were something of a big deal back then, now I see them practically everywhere I go, even if it’s in the middle of the woods. In fact, on my recent trip west I had two flybys of Wood Ducks at around 5000 ft!

All of this because Wood Ducks are one of wildlife management’s great success story. Being a brightly colored duck it was targeted by both market waterfowl hunters and the millinery trade. Combined with habitat loss the population was further decimated. But the Audubon Society, then in its infancy, worked hard to protect appropriate habitat and most famously, to put up nest boxes that would eventually come to be used by the birds all across their range. And we’re better for it too, gaudy Wood Ducks are always a treat.

  1. Jochen permalink
    May 7, 2008 8:01 am

    While I lived along Ontario’s Moira River way back in the late 1980s, I would often venture out onto the river in my host family’s canoe to look for beavers and birds, and the wood duck was always a highlight. They are indeed much more common now and one tends to almost neglect them for that.
    How come you haven’t participated in the latest 10,000birds ID quiz? Come on, I have already made a fool of myself, so join the fun, your guesses can’t be worse than mine…

  2. corey permalink
    May 7, 2008 8:52 am

    Here in NYC Wood Ducks are tough to find…in fact I had more from the train’s window on my way upstate this past weekend (4) than I’ve had over the last two months in the city.

  3. May 7, 2008 10:40 am

    Thanks for the comments guys, I suspect that the abundance of Woodies around here has to do with the abundance or tree-lined waterways and cypress swamps that they prefer.

    I certainly see a ton of them, even in relatively shallow water and ephemeral ponds.

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