Monday, March 31, 2014

Wood Duck Update March 31, 2014: Two Ducks in a Box Last Week!

Eleven eggs!-- Saturday morning, March 22, 2014

               It was an eventful week for the Parc Perlière Wood Ducks last week!  In my previous post, "Wood Duck Update:  March 19, 2014 ---- Shhhhhhhh......!" I recorded that our female Wood Duck no. 1 had begun incubating.  However, a Wood Duck no. 2 had also been going in the box to lay eggs!  With more research on the encyclopaedic Birds of North America Online, a subscription site with comprehensive life histories of the breeding birds of North America produced by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the American Ornithologists' Union, I was reminded that the Wood Duck hen incubates part-time (usually just at night) for the first 4 days.  She also continues egg-laying during this period.  Then she begins incubating full time except for a morning and late afternoon break for feeding.  Breaks last on average from 87 minutes to 104 minutes with longer breaks occurring late in the day.  Thus, our Duck no. 1 followed the rules -- she began her part-time incubating on Wednesday, March 19 and began her full-time incubating on Sunday, March 23.  But then there's Duck no. 2, our interloper, who just wants a place to lay her eggs!  Here's a list of the events as they unfolded last week:

Saturday, March 22, 2014
           Early in the morning, Wood Duck no. 1 was still incubating when Wood Duck no. 2 dropped into the box right on top of Wood Duck no. 1.  At first, Number 1 did not really respond.

Under infra-red light -- Wood Duck hen no. 2 sitting on Wood Duck hen no. 1's back -- where she landed when she came into the box.  -- Parc Perlière -- Charleston, SC --- March 22, 2014

But then Wood Duck no. 2 began to try to jostle for position in the box.  Around and around the two ducks went.  Number 1 was trying hard not to be dislodged from atop her eggs and bit Number 2 from time to time.  Finally, after several minutes of this, Number 2 left.  Right before she left though, Carl and I witnessed some tail pumping action.  Was she laying an egg?  We do not  know.  A short while later, Wood Duck no. 1 left and we captured the above picture.  We wonder if there is a twelfth egg in there under some of the cedar chips and down.

Sunday, March 23, 2014
            Our Wood Duck no. 1 had left the box on a break when Wood Duck no. 2 came in.  She plopped herself down and pushed around a bit.  After about 10 minutes, we saw more tail-pumping action.  Then she carefully covered up the eggs and left.  This is the day that Wood Duck no. 1 began full time incubation.  She returned to the nest a little later that morning and did not leave again except for a break in the late afternoon.

Monday through Wednesday, March 24 -26, 2014
           Each evening upon returning home from work, Carl and I watched the videos for the day.  Each day, Wood Duck no. 2 came into the box landing on Wood Duck no. 1 and the jostling and the biting then ensued.  We noted that Wood Duck no. 2 did not fight back.  She simply seemed to be attempting to lay an egg.  Wood Duck no. 1 was furiously tending her turf though --  not being willing to sacrifice her nesting attempt to this interloper.   With this much egg dumping, we wondered if the eggs would survive.  Wednesday was the worst of the days.  Wood Duck no. 2 came in a total of 9 times -- 3 times in an hour at 3 different times during the day!  How frustrating for both these ducks -- trying to do what they are biologically programmed to do!  You can watch the video below though you may not want to.  Some may consider the struggle too hard to watch.  Wood Duck no. 1 is most definitely the agressive duck.  Wood Duck no. 2 just takes it as she attempts to push out an egg.  We do not know if or how many times she may have succeeded in laying an egg.

  

Thursday, March 25, 2014 to present   
            There have been no more duck box battles.  Our Duck No. 1 has been able to incubate in peace.  Duck no. 2 appears to have given up.  We have not seen her since Wednesday.

            We now hope that there are not so many eggs as to inhibit a successful incubation.  We will keep watch and count the days.  Hatching should occur in the few days before Easter.  It may be delayed because of the dumping .... if it happens at all!  Fingers crossed.  We will keep you posted!