The illusive woodduck.You are fortunate if you live in the area east of the Mississippi, for you will be able to find the woodduck. There are also a few in southern British Columbia, Washington and Oregon with strays in northern California.
Their numbers are solid from Virginia to northern Maine.
This is by far the most beautiful of the game bird ducks of America. The hooded merganser, technically not a game bird, but a beautiful duck, is about his only rival. "Woodie" has been hunted for sport, meat and for plumage, and, as a result, took a terrible beating from market hunters until laws protected him.
The first Swamp Act of 1849 started the drainage of about 70 million acres of water and marsh lands, its natural habitat, and this did additional damage, for it killed off his chance to live and breed in those sections of the country. In 1918 legislation in Canada saved the bird from extinction.
The woodduck is still not on the hunting list in many states. Where it is legal game, only one bird per season is allowed. The feathers are used by fly tiers in making trout flies.
Many breeders of exotic birds for estates and parks kept the strain alive and stocking was responsible for bringing back the species in areas where it had been lost seemingly forever.
While the bird is extremely shy, it will nest readily in tree boxes placed alongside lakes and ponds or in marshes and swamps. The bird normally nests in trees, rather than on the ground, as the other ducks do.
The male is our only surface feeder with a crest on its head. Woodies are small, averaging eighteen inches long and weigh only one and a half pounds. They sit high on the water and their flight is swift and direct. Their food consists of aquatic plants, seeds and nuts.
Very seldom will you find a sizable flight of these birds, as they usually are prone to remain individuals, living in solitude in the marshes and protected lake shores. Usually, you will come upon them on some lost lake way back in the wilderness while on a camping or fishing trip.
You might see one or two families at a time. They do not migrate to any great extent, often staying in one area and in one spot if conditions warrant. They are hardy and can usually ride out the winter. They do not require water all the time and so can get along during the freeze-ups.
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