The Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata) has been perched around the dam, lately, and this spot on the bridge at duck point seems to be favoured, early in the morning, before they fly off elsewhere. Well-developed claws help them to grip, as seen here on the post-and-rail sides of the bridge, and also to raise their clutches of eggs in eucalypt hollows.
They’ve been observed nesting and raising their young in the Edward Hunter Heritage Bush Reserve, in varying numbers, over the last few breeding seasons. They don’t stay year around, unlike the Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa) and other ducks and geese (native and exotic) that do.
They’ve also been observed at the nearby Moe Water Treatment Plant (as per visits from the Latrobe Valley Field Naturalists). The ducks mate for life and stick to the same area, most remaining within a 200km radius of the flock.
Their appearance varies with age and their moult (see DPI’s – now the Game Management Authority – Moult Cycle).The younger birds in this group seem to have attained their basic adult plumage. Males will go through moult in early spring before the breeding season (September to November) to grow their breeding plumage and then a full moult later. The males in this group seem to have undergone their full moult as their black mane is not so much in evidence and their head colouring is chocolate brown. The female, like the male, has a grey body, with a speckled front but she is lighter coloured around the head and has white stripes around her eyes.
The duck prefers to forage in the evening and at night on land for grasses, “particularly, summer grass (Paspalidum), wallaby grass (Danthonia), couch (Cynodon), rice (Oryza), smartweed (Polygonum), as well as other ground cover such as clover and herbs” ( Life in the Suburbs, 2011) and, occasionally, insects.
In south eastern Australia, the ducks begin inspecting sites for nests around July. Eggs are produced and young hatch during September to November. The young ducks remain with their parents until shortly – up to a month – after they can fly. From later summer onwards, after the breeding season, flocks will gather together around fresh water before dispersing.
Sources and further references
Birdlife Australia (2011) Australian Wood Duck. http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Chenonetta-jubata
Department of Primary Industries Victoria (2011) Guide to Australian Waterfowl: Identifying age, sex and moult in Victorian Game Waterfowl. http://www.gma.vic.gov.au/education/better-hunting/know-your-waterfowl/game-waterfowl-guide
Evans, O. Australian Museum (2013) Animal Species: Australian Wood Duck. http://australianmuseum.net.au/Australian-Wood-Duck
WA Department of Environment and Conservation (2009) Fauna Notes – No. 27 Wood Ducks. http://www.dec.wa.gov.au/publications/cat_view/365-fauna-management/457-fauna-notes.html