The extensive wetlands at L. Kirk Edwards attract a variety of wading birds and waterfowl. The artificially stabilized water levels attract the largest colony of endangered wood storks in north Florida.
Wood ducks, anhingas, 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 many pairs of osprey that nest and fish on the Lafayette chain of lakes. Wood ducks, American coots and common moorhen are year round residents and are joined in the fall and winter by blue- and green-winged teal and ring-necked ducks.
Wildlife Spotlight: Wood Duck
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Many people consider the wood duck to be the most beautiful of all waterfowl. The species is also a popular game bird, second only to the mallard. 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 ducks with crested heads. Breeding males have brilliant colors - bright red, black and white patterned bills - and iridescent green and purple plumage, set off with white streaks. Females are brownish gray with a metallic sheen.
Wood ducks breed throughout the eastern half of the United States, from southern Canada to Cuba, along the west coast from British Columbia to southern California, and in scattered inland locations. Winters are spent in the southern part of the breeding range. 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. Its diet consists mainly 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 6-15 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'll be able to fly when they are 8 - 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.