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Wood Ducks grow up wild at WildCare

 
 
These Wood Duck patients in WildCare's Wildlife Hospital need to build up their flight muscles! In the weeks before their release back to the wild, they were given daily "flight therapy" in their enclosure. In this video, WildCare Medical Staff encourages them gently to leave their perch... but they're skeptical about the whole idea. Trouble viewing the video? Click to watch it on YouTube.
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Orphaned baby Wood Duck. Photo by Alison Hermance
This Wood Duck was orphaned and was admitted to WildCare in July of 2015. She grew up strong and healthy!. Photo by Alison Hermance
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Wood Ducks are unusual patients at WildCare; we have only admitted 24 of them since 1996!

But four of these beautiful birds called WildCare home for over two months this summer before they returned to their wild habitat.

Wood Ducks are also unusual among waterfowl in that, unlike other ducks, they perch and nest in trees and are skilled flyers in close woodland habitat.

Wood Ducks are shy and hard to spot, which is very unfortunate as they are some of the most beautiful birds we have in the Bay Area. The plumage of the males is striking, with irridescent green, blue and chestnut feathers in gorgeous patterns.

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Orphaned baby Wood Duck. Photo by Alison Hermance
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Male Wood Duck. Photo by Garrett Scales
Male Wood Ducks have particularly beautiful plumage! Photo by Garrett Scales
Orphaned baby Wood Duck. Photo by Alison Hermance
The Wood Duckling gets an identifying band on
his leg. Photo by Alison Hermance
Wood Ducks in a row on a perch. Photo by M. Piazza
Wood Ducks like to perch... apparently all in a row! Photo by Melanie Piazza
Wood Ducks in a carrying box. Photo by Melanie Piazza
 Release day is the best day! The ducks are placed in boxes to be taken their new home. Photo by Melanie Piazza
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emale Wood Ducks have more muted plumage, but a white eye ring and delicate feather patterns make them especially lovely too.

One of the most important components to raising wild baby animals like these ducklings is to make sure each baby grows up with members of his or her own species. WildCare never raises babies alone, and contact with humans is kept to a minimum.

So when we admitted a rare Wood Duck patient in July of 2015, we knew we would need to find companions for her. Fortunately, International Bird Rescue had also admitted some Wood Ducks and the decision was made to transfer their ducks to us, rather than send our duckling to them.

International Bird Rescue has been overwhelmed with emaciated pelagic (ocean-going) birds called Common Murres this summer (click to read why these birds are washing up on our beaches!), so we were happy to accept their non-pelagic orphaned ducklings to be raised at WildCare

But unlike other ducks, Wood Ducks require a flight aviary with perches in addition to a pool in which to swim. Tight space constraints at WildCare's current facility make arranging a proper enclosure a challenge, but we managed to find space for this quartet.

In the video above you'll see our four patients prepping for flight practice-- an exercise WildCare staff and volunteers implemented daily to build the birds' flight muscles and give them practice maneuvering and alighting on various perches.

In our new Wildlife Hospital, WildCare will have space to create ideal enclosures for species like Wood Ducks without having to move and relocate other patients that also need a flight aviary. We can't wait! Click to learn more about WildCare's future new home and our Capital Campaign to raise funds for it.

After almost exactly two months in care, these handsome birds had started developing their adult plumage, had demonstrated that they could fly with ease in tight quarters, and that their toes were strong for perching. They were ready for release!

Fortunately, perfect Wood Duck habitat existed just over the hill from WildCare at the San Geronimo Golf Course. One of their ponds had hosted Wood Ducks in the past, and the maintenance manager at the golf course knew where Wood Duck nesting boxes had been hung.

These birds nest naturally in cavities in trees, but are happy with nest boxes when a natural cavity cannot be found.

The mid-September morning was gorgeous and sunny, and the release of the ducks went beautifully. We hope they'll make their permanent home at the golf course for many years to come! Watch them fly free in the video below.

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Watch these beautiful ducks fly free! Trouble viewing the video? Click to watch it on YouTube.