Australia’s Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife has been sending around an engaging series of articles aimed at our younger citizens to lure them into being ‘backyard buddies’ of common wildlife. This time ducks are in the sights.
A common little backyard buddy will be falling from the trees at the moment. Yes that’s right, falling from trees. The Wood Duck likes to keep its babies safe high up in a tree hollow but soon they will have to leave the only way they know how… so if you’re walking under a tree and someone yells ‘DUCK’, they may be speaking literally.
Wood Duck dad is likely to stand guard at the base of the nesting tree while mum is incubating the egg before the fluffy chicks fall from the sky (should you be lucky enough to see this).
Wood Ducks are predominately herbivores, feeding on small grasses and herbs but they will also eat the odd insect—which makes them good buddies to have around your backyard.
“While the Wood Ducks love hanging around pools,” said Susanna Bradshaw from the Foundation, “their presence doesn’t have to be looked down upon. They’re also helping by eating up your weeds and insects while ‘fertilising’ your garden at the same time.”
Tips for Living with Wood Ducks
- Try to steer clear of using weed killer on your lawn as Wood Ducks and other animals can ingest it while foraging in the grass.
- As so many of their nesting trees have been cleared, why not place a Wood Duck nestbox in a tree in your backyard? Then you can watch the little fluff-ball ducklings being raised and jumping to freedom right under your nose.
- Wood Ducks love coming across a backyard pond so why not put aside a section of your garden and turn it into a wildlife-friendly water feature?
More interesting facts
- When frightened by a potential predator, one Wood Duck parent will often pretend to have a broken wing and run away from the chicks to distract the predator while the other parent quickly gets the chicks to safety.
- The Australian Wood Duck is one of the few animals that have actually benefitted from European settlement in Australia. They love paddocks and dams, however too much land clearing has reduced the availability of tree hollows for them to nest in.
- Like most water birds, once hatched the baby Wood Duck already has waterproof feathers so that it can enter the water as soon as it leaves the nest.
To see if Wood Ducks are in your area, please consult the Atlas of Living Australia.
Backyard Buddies is a free program run by Australia’s Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife. Each month, you get a Backyard Buddies email (B-mail) with tips to make your backyard inviting and safe for native animals. Wood Ducks featured in September B-mail. Sign up for B-mail and download a free factsheet about Wood Ducks at www.backyardbuddies.net.au
Image credit: Victor Paul