The Australian Wood Duck is December's Bird of the Month.
Australian Wood Duck
The Australian Wood Duck is a breeding resident of the Centennial Parklands, and probably the native duck to have had the most benefit from European settlement of Australia.
In appearance and behaviour it could be mistaken for a small goose, and one of its common names is the Maned Goose.
The male has a dark-brown head with a mane of black feathers running down the back of its neck, a grey body with black stripes along its back, a brown-mottled breast, and black under the belly and tail. The female has a lighter brown head with white stripes running above and below the eye, the mottled appearance on the breast spreading along its flanks, and white under the belly and tail.
Juveniles look similar to the female, but with a more dull appearance.
While the Australian Wood Duck is found around the Australian mainland and into Tasmania, its favoured locations range from coastal wetlands to the river systems of the interior. Agriculture has provided an abundance of farm dams surrounded by grasslands which has done much to extend the Wood Ducks’ range. Flocks of Australian Wood Ducks are a regular feature on the edges of dams in rural areas which offer little support for other species of duck. Only the arid interior and tropical north have restricted its spread.
Like the domestic geese in the park, the Australian Wood Duck is more often seen wandering across lawns and grasslands feeding on grasses, herbs and clover, with some extra nourishment from worms or insects, especially after rain.
Australian Wood Duck form permanent monogamous pairs, and tend to breed after periods of heavy rain, usually in the spring. Despite a preference for foraging on land, the pair carry out breeding displays and mate in the water.
They build up a nest of feather down in a tree hollow, sometimes away from water. The female lays 9 to 12 eggs and covers them in the soft down feathers. She incubates them for about 28 days while the male guards the nest site, and soon after they hatch she will join the male on the ground below the nest where they call to the ducklings until they jump from the hollow to join them.
Both adults protect and feed the ducklings which try to remain hidden in grass of brush near the water until they fledge after about 50 days. After fledging the young ducks may stay with the adults for a few weeks before dispersing.
In the Park:
Australian Wood Ducks are not found in the parklands in large numbers, but breeding pairs and ducklings have been recorded regularly. Pairs move around, and have been seen around all of the ponds, usually along the shallow edges, or on surrounding lawns. In spring they may be seen swimming with their ducklings along the edges of ponds and islands, or wandering across the park.