Species of the week: The Australian wood duck

In contrary to its common name, the Australian wood duck (Chenonetta jubata) is more closely related to a geese than a duck, but to make it less complicated we shall go on referring to it as a duck. The male and female wood duck are easy to tell a part; males have a dark head and a small main on the back of the head, where females have a light colored head with two white stripes, one below and one above the eye. The wood duck feeds by dabbling in grasslands or in shallow waters, feeding on clovers and other herbs, occasionally taking insects. Once an Australian Wood Duck has chosen a partner, it will spend most of its time with this partner, mating year after year.

 

Female Australian Wood Duck | Copyright Lucy Kidson (2014)

Female Australian Wood Duck | Copyright Lucy Kidson (2014)

Monogamous pair of Australian Wood Ducks grazing together | Copyright Lucy Kidson (2014)

Monogamous pair of Australian Wood Ducks grazing together | Copyright Lucy Kidson (2014)

 

 

With the onset of spring, you may occasionally see a male wood duck in a tree. When seeing a duck sitting in a tree for the first time, it can be unusual.  However this is a perfectly normal behavior as when breeding season commences (usually around September), the males will call from a tree usually around 3 meters in the canopy and try to entice a female into a nesting hollow in the try. The female will lay on average 8-10 eggs in the hollow, but in some circumstances may lay more. After a bout a month in the nest, the hatchlings will be escorted out of the nest by their parents, where they have to preform a ‘leap of faith’ from the nesting hollow. This is the first danger they may face as some hatchlings become too scared to jump the 3 meter height and many stay, where they will be left behind.

 

Ducklings | Copyright Lucy Kidson (2014)

Ducklings | Copyright Lucy Kidson (2014)

 

The mother and father will take turns in guarding the ducklings and directing them quickly and safely away from danger if it arises. The Australian wood duck usually avoids open water situations, especially if they have a group of ducklings to tend to. In the south east coast of Australia, a predator lurks in the depths of deep lagoons and creeks which will take a duckling if it ever gets the chance. The Marbled Eel (Anguilla reinhardii) is an aquatic predator that commonly reaches 1 meter in length and can some times reach just over 1.5 meters. If a group of ducklings, regardless what species, was ever to brave open water, this is the predator that would be their biggest worry.

 

Mother keeping a watchful eye of her ducklings | Copyright Lucy Kidson (2014)

Father keeping a watchful eye of his ducklings | Copyright Lucy Kidson (2014)

 

Most of the time, only a few ducklings will make it in one clutch. In safe havens havens such as the Camelia Gardens, most of the ducklings will reach maturity. Within one month the ducklings will be completely unrecognizable and almost look likes an adult. To see Australian Wood Duck families, it is easiest to go to the Camelia Gardens, however please restrain your kids from harassing the ducklings and they can become separated from their mother and subsequently starve.

 

Website of the Camelia Gardens