In pine barren wetlands, on New York’s Long Island, where black gum and red maple trees dominate the landscape, a mother wood duck calls to her ducklings from the edge of a small pond. The ducklings are only a day old and covered in down. They are still in the nesting cavity of an old red maple tree, 30 feet high where mom laid 12 creamy white eggs a month earlier.
One by one the ducklings climb up the inside of the tree cavity, poke their heads out and bravely jump, tumbling down, crashing through branches until they hit the ground. They are so agile, they are uninjured by the fall. Each duckling finds its way to mom until they are all together when they swim with her eating aquatic plants and insects.
Wood duck populations declined drastically in the late 1800’s and into the early 1900’s but has made a comeback and their numbers are secure.
The ducklings will face many challenges as they grow. Snapping turtles, alligators, snakes and hawks will eat many of them, but enough will survive for the species to sustain its current levels.