Wood storks usually nest in tall cypress, black gum and tupelo gum trees.
Uplands at L. Kirk Edwards are home to gopher tortoises, Sherman’s fox squirrels and white-tailed deer. Abundant birdlife includes Bachman’s sparrows, brown-headed nuthatches, northern bobwhite, wild turkey and a variety of resident and migratory songbirds. Wetlands attract wading birds and waterfowl including one of the largest colonies of threatened wood storks in north Florida. Wood duck, anhinga, great blue and green herons, and a variety of other wading birds nest and raise their young here. Frogs bellow and eastern kingbirds, red-winged blackbirds and boat-tailed grackles noisily stake out breeding territories. Watch for iridescent purple gallinules as they skate from lily pad to lily pad and the ospreys that nest and fish on the Lafayette chain of lakes. Wood ducks, American coots and common gallinules are year-round residents and are joined in the fall and winter by blue-winged and green-winged teal.
Wildlife Spotlight: Wood Duck
A pair of wood ducks
The distinctly-marked wood duck is colorful, beautiful and a popular game bird. Florida is fortunate to have both year-round residents and an influx of northern migrants in the winter. Wood ducks are small to medium sized dabblers with crested heads. A breeding male’s clearly-marked green, black and white crest is swept back. The male has a chestnut-colored breast, iridescent green and purple plumage, set off with white streaks, which makes this species especially showy. Although the brownish gray female is dull by comparison, she has a white eye patch and a shorter swept-back crest.
This species is found throughout Florida, except in the Keys, the sawgrass marshes of the Everglades and agricultural areas near Lake Okeechobee. The wood duck spends most of its time in forested wetlands along rivers, swamps, marshes, ponds and lakes, often perching in trees. It is primarily a surface-feeder, with a diet of aquatic plants, seeds, fruits and acorns. Dragonflies, beetles and other insects are also sometimes eaten; they provide an important source of protein for breeding females and their young.
Most nesting occurs from March to June. Wood ducks search for cavities in tree trunks or large limbs, usually near the water. The female lines the cavity with down and lays 6 to 15 eggs. Chicks are far from helpless when they hatch. They are covered in down and can walk, hop, climb and swim. About one day after the eggs hatch, the female leaves the nest and coaxes the hatchlings to follow. They climb to the edge of the cavity and jump to the ground or water. They’re able to fly when they are 8 to 10 weeks old.
In the early 1900s, the population of wood ducks declined drastically due to over-hunting and the clearing and draining of forested wetlands. A combination of hunting restrictions and habitat conservation and management measures allowed the species to make a comeback. Today, the wood duck is the most widespread breeding waterfowl in Florida and, by far, the most common.