Australian wood duck
The Wood Duck is Australia’s most common duck and lives throughout Australia with the exception of particularly arid areas. It may be observed in grasslands, open woodlands, wetlands, flooded pastures and along the coast in inlets and bays. It is also common on farmland with dams, as well as around rice fields, sewage ponds and in urban parks. It is rarely seen on open water, preferring to forage by dabbling in shallow water, or in grasslands. Its preferred diet is grasses, clover and other herbs, and will also eat insects.
Breeding season is September to November in the south, and after rain in the north. The nest is constructed in tree hollows. The female incubates her 9 to 11 cream-coloured eggs, while the male stands guard on the ground to fight off intruders who might threaten his family.
Once the chicks have hatched and are a few days old, their parents sit at the bottom of the tree and call for their chicks to join them. If this doesn’t entice them out, the female will teach her ducklings to jump out of the nest by repeatedly flying between the nest and the ground, calling out to her chicks.
To protect their young, Wood Duck parents sometimes perform a ‘broken wing’ routine, where they pretend to be maimed to lead predators away from their young. At other times they will freeze with their chicks and stick their necks out to distract and confuse predators.
Both parents feed young and young birds remain with them up to a month after fledging.
You can encourage Australian Wood Ducks into your garden, you just need to build or buy a suitable nest box and place it high enough off the ground so that predators can’t reach it.