My Life’s Birds: #89
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.