Did you know that Atlantic Flyway hunters harvest more wood ducks annually than mallards? That fact, presented in With Wings Extended, a short-but-information-packed book by Minnesota biologist Greg Hoch, is particularly amazing when you consider that a century ago conservationists thought the wood duck was on the same flight path to extinction as the passenger pigeon and Carolina parakeet.
The rainbow beauty of male wood ducks is unsurpassed among our waterfowl. Other names include summer duck, squealer (thanks to its call) and acorn duck (wood ducks eat a lot of this high-energy food)—though most of us just call them “woodies.” “Wood” signifies how readily these ducks use forests. Ever wonder why a woodie’s tail is longer and broader than that of other ducks? It lets the bird zig and zag while flying through timber.
In springtime wood ducks nest in tree cavities, and trees need to be fairly large for such hollows to form. A resurgence and maturing of Eastern forests combined with pileated woodpeckers’ chiseling habits mean that nowadays wood ducks can find many natural nesting cavities, which are supplemented by artificial nest boxes.
With Wings Extended has chapters on taxonomy and anatomy, nesting habits, migration, hunting and more. It extensively quotes both sporting writers’ and biologists’ words on woodies. It also details decades of dedicated work by hunters and wildlife professionals to help this popular species. As Hoch points out: “The wood duck is one of America’s great conservation stories.” He does a good job of explaining how biologists and foresters work together to maintain a healthy mix of tree types and ages—which benefits not just woodies but also many other kinds of wildlife.
With Wings Extended: A Leap into the Wood Duck’s World, is available for $35 from University of Iowa Press.