An unusual avian visitor is bobbing around on the Klein River in Stanford in the Overberg – a male wood duck (Aix sponsa) whose natural distribution is on the East and West coasts of the North American continent. A medium sized perching duck he is a handsome bird with a crest on his head, a red eye and crisp markings on his face and body in iridescent colours.
The wood duck’s habitat incudes wooded swamps, shallow lakes, marshes and ponds. They usually nest in trees close to water in order to be safe from predators and to ensure their young a soft land as they jump from the nesting tree to the water a day after they have hatched, by which time they can swim and find their own food. The wood duck has sharp claws for perching. They are omnivorous, favouring berries, acorns and seeds and also insects.
The wood duck is sought after by water bird collectors because of its beautiful plumage. It faced extinction at the beginning of the 20th century as a result of its feathers being used in the hat trade in Europe. Numbers also plummeted as its natural habitat disappeared and as a result of hunting. Conservation efforts in America have helped increase the number of ducks over the past several years.
The shy duck on the Klein River is most likely an escapee. It has been seen on the river over the past 2 weeks.
My photo is not as great as I would have liked but until I receive a better one from a local birder it will have to do! It was taken from the River Rat early on Sunday morning, 1 March 2015.