Watching Wood Ducks

A wood duck pair landed on a snag.

I wasn’t the only one that noticed. No sooner had the male started his noisy jib-jib-jib-ing, but two squirrels emerged from holes in the same broken tree.

Was I about to see a scuffle?

Both birds ignored the squirrels, gazing into the forest instead. The female stared to the east. The male looked mostly west. And the squirrels? They watched but made no move to confront the ducks. Here are some snippets of the ducks’ visit, which lasted about an hour:

What were the ducks doing on the snag?

It’s possible—maybe even likely—that they were shopping for a nest site. Wood ducks nest in tree holes made by rot or excavated by birds like pileated woodpeckers. Cornell’s Birds of the World notes that the male wood duck uses its jib-jib-jib call while his mate searches for a nest cavity. The call reinforces the pair’s bond. But on this early May day, the ducks seemed to be surveying only the surrounding woods. I didn’t notice either bird peering inside a cavity.

That said, in mid-April, I had spotted wood ducks on the same snag. That pair peered and poked their bills into cavities… until a resident squirrel objected. Take a look:


So, will there be a wood duck nest in my favorite snag? I have no way of knowing if the April and May ducks were the same birds, or if the female(s) liked the local nesting real estate. I do know that wood duck romancing takes place in our woods. I see it every spring.

Here’s a video I’ve shared before. I think you’ll agree it’s a very special sight.

Now, if I’m REALLY lucky, even if no ducks have selected my snag, a pair will nest somewhere nearby, so I can see at least some of the fun through my lens. Most likely, the dense tree canopy will obscure my view even if the nest is close to the house. But a girl can always hope!

Resources, a Related Kids’ Book, and a Curriculum Connection

The detailed Birds of the World account I mentioned above is behind a paywall, but the Audubon Field Guide’s wood duck account is well worth visiting.

Here’s a fun article from Audubon that kids will enjoy: 10 Fun Facts About the Wood Duck.

The National Wildlife Federation’s wood duck account is interesting, too.

Here’s a terrific related kids’ book:


I love Jump, Little Wood Ducks by Marion Dane Bauer, with photographs by Stan Tekiela. Nestling ducks resist their mother’s call to jump from their nest high in a tree: “Nope!” says duckling number one. “No way, no how!” says the second duckling. The last duckling just whispers, “Uh-uh.” Eventually, the mama duck makes her case, reassuring her ducklings that they will be safe and tempting them with water-borne treats she knows they would like to eat. The story is quirky but factual and just plain fun to read. The photos are stunning. This book for ages 4 to 8 is a perfect introduction to the beautiful wood duck. It can also be a terrific conversation starter about facing fears.

Curriculum Connection: This post and the recommended book would be a terrific complement to the lower-elementary study of animal science, animal life cycle, traits, and adaptations.

8 thoughts on “Watching Wood Ducks”

    1. Thank YOU for taking the time to read the post, Cindy. I hope you get a wood duck visit, too!

  1. Oh Carol! You are so fortunate to experience wood ducks up close on a regular basis. Hope the storms you have had are not disrupting spring activity. The Jump Little Wood Ducks story made me laugh! Thinking of you.

    1. Carol, I think sometimes that the males stop by just to show how handsome they are. I know how lucky I am to see them so often. And yes, that book is super fun!

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