A male wood duck stands on a branch in a tree's canopy.

Duck Drama

Wood ducks seemed to be studying our squirrel tree.

We call it that because squirrels like to shelter inside. And each spring, at least one new family grows up there. One year, a pregnant raccoon took over the entire tree. But otherwise, for some twenty years, we have watched squirrel mamas, and eventually their pups, scurry in and out of the largely hollow tree.

But last week, I wondered if wood ducks might be moving in.

Wood ducks nest in tree cavities. The female chooses the site. The male typically waits nearby as she inspects potential cavities. I can’t be sure that’s why both birds were on the tree, but the timing was right: It was an early April morning. Plus, the tree’s location is favorable, as it overlooks a lake.

I filmed the birds for fifteen minutes or so, hoping to see the female enter a cavity to assess its interior. She poked her bill inside a few openings. She paced and seemed to survey her surroundings as the male stayed largely put. Finally, something happened that resolved my nesting question. Take a look:

I’ve seen wood ducks crush acorns in their bills. When threatened, they’re known to chase, peck, and hit other creatures with their opened wings. That squirrel was mighty brave, don’t you think?

Our squirrel tree has amply rewarded us with fun wildlife theatrics. I have quite a few posts about squirrels and raccoons, but one of my favorites is Hang on Tight, Raccoon Kit! You can see raccoon babies in their first forays out of the den their mama made in our squirrel tree. You’ll watch the kits as they learn to keep their balance while crawling on branches high above the water. Another fun post is Not Ready to Leave the Nest, where a squirrel mama tries to coax her kids to leave the nest and ultimately resorts to yanking them out.


My wood duck nesting facts come from my paid account with The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, so that resource is behind a paywall. But Audubon’s Guide to North American Birds has a free wood duck article.

For this post’s related kids’ book, I recommend Tree Hole Homes-Daytime Dens and Nighttime Nooks by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Amy Hevron.

It was written for kids ages 4 to 8, but I suspect grown-ups will also love the book. I sure do! It features tree-living creatures as diverse as owls, bears, bats, tree frogs, and more, with lots of facts about the animals’ lives both inside the tree and out. The illustrations are imaginative and informative, beautifully done with a woodsy feel to them.

8 thoughts on “Duck Drama”

    1. Laura, thank you! It’s been such a privilege to share my critter observations with others. I’m glad you found my blog!

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