Shortly after the nice surprise of seeing a Wood Duck with two ducklings on Sunday I came upon this one with eight ducklings.
They were paddling along all together in a tight group at first but eventually spread out enough for me to count them.
They followed the pond to the corner then did an about face and headed back the way they came, sticking pretty close to mom. The water was reflecting the dead brown grass on the bank so this image isn’t that pretty, but you can see each duckling distinctly.
A mother Wood Duck usually stays with her ducklings until they are grown to near adult size, the “teen age” stage. The males are sometimes around but don’t seem to supervise the young the way I’ve seen the females herd their charges around.
No adult was in sight for these three ducklings and I suspect the mother became lunch for a predator. The survival rate for the ducklings is low and the adults can fall victim to alligators, hawks, or eagles. These three were sticking together, swimming around the pond to various perches. As plant eaters these ducklings don’t rely on the parent bringing food, they just eat what is around them.
This board they are settled on is an Alligator ramp that has been slowly sinking into the pond over the last year.
The surface of the pond is covered with a mixture of green Duck Weed and some variation of Mosquito Fern, the red plant. Zoom in on the closer image of the dragonfly perched on the surface to see the plants in more detail.
The oldest Wood Duck chicks on the pond right now are almost indistinguishable from their mothers.
This old alligator platform gets smaller every week, either sinking or rotting into the pond. This small family squeezes together on it to groom and soak up the afternoon sun.
From the end of the pond you get a view of the platform with the sun glaring off the duckweed. In silhouette you can see mother duck standing a little taller and with more head feathers than her four youngsters. She had turned just a bit to see which way I was headed.
Mama Wood Duck and her brood posed for a family portrait on one of the new alligator ramps installed around the rice field. I counted fourteen chicks while they were sitting still, but some were snoozing with their heads down so there may have been more. All About Birdssays their clutch can have up to sixteen eggs.
A Common Gallinule was doing his best to photo bomb the portrait, paddling along behind them. I waited, hoping he would move along.
He did, but Mama felt it was time to move on, too, and they all bailed off in one fluid motion off the side of the ramp away from me.