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Nature Notebook – Wood Ducks

Wood ducks are a common breeder and year-round resident in southwest Michigan, but sneaking up on one is an almost impossible task. They are very sensitive to sound and will flee the area with the slightest snap of a twig or sound of a voice, usually sounding a long trilling call on their way out.

Starting in mid-March, some wood duck pairs begin scouting nesting spots to breed and raise their young. Wood ducks use tree cavities and even man-made boxes as their preferred nesting spots. They cannot make their own cavities and rely on cavities usually formed when a large branch rots and falls off a tree.

They prefer these cavities to be high off the ground, sometimes 60-feet in the air.  Having a nest this high protects the eggs and young from many predators, but it can make for a daunting fall when it’s time for the chicks to leave the nest. The leaf litter on the ground or water cushions their fall and they spend the next few months learning the ins and outs of life on a small pond, lake, stream or swamp.