Urban Birds: Ducks on the Lawn and in the Trees

Male Wood Duck

Male Wood Duck

Discover Your Patch: Adelaide Nature Notes by Dr Sandra Taylor

In Metropolitan Adelaide and other Australian cities, urbanisation has created many new habitats for birds. One of the most conspicuous of these habitats is the extensive areas of irrigated lawn found in almost all of our urban parks. The availability of this habitat has allowed the Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata), a native of Metropolitan Adelaide, to become very numerous on park lawns near water.

The Wood Duck is most closely related to Australian ‘dabbling ducks’, like Shelducks and Teal, that feed by ‘upending’ in lakes and ponds to reach plants below the water surface. But the Wood Duck looks like a small goose, with a dark mane of feathers on the back of the male’s head, and it prefers to walk about and forage on land, grazing on grasses and herbs like a goose. This is why the Wood Duck is also called the ‘Maned Goose’.

Another peculiarity of the Wood Duck is its habit of nesting in trees. Pairs of Wood Duck mate for life and co-operate during the Spring to feed their nestlings. Even after the ducklings jump from the nest and begin to graze on the ground, they remain with their parents for several weeks while they grow from small balls of fluff to adult size.

Female Wood Duck with ducklings (Male in Background)

Female Wood Duck with ducklings (Male in background)

Throughout the Spring and early Summer, look for pairs of Wood Duck with ducklings on the lawns in the Adelaide Parklands. You should have no trouble recognising this medium-sized duck, which has a dark brown head and a pale grey body with two black stripes along its back. Males have a darker head, a small dark mane, a speckled brown-grey breast and a black lower belly. The females have a paler head with a white stripe above and below the eye, a speckled breast and a white lower belly.

You might also like to look for the Wood Duck and other birds in your local park (if it has lawn with trees near water) as part of the annual Aussie Backyard Bird Count to be held from 23 till 29 October during National Bird Week. You can register online to participate in the count.


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