Unique White Wood Duck

During a May 21, 2014 field trip for Ki-Be Middle School students we discovered a very unique white wood duck.  Using a fiber optic inspection camera we were able to view into the nesting box and take pictures/video without disturbing the hen.  Much to our surprise we discovered that the eggs the hen was incubating were hatching and ducklings were appearing from under the hen.  The DeWalt camera has a detachable monitoring screen that the students were able to pass around to get a good view of the hen and her ducklings.  It appears that even though the hen is Leucistic, the 10 ducklings are all normal colored.  The hen has been sighted in the Benton City area as recently as January 2015.
Leucistic Hen Wood Duck
 Quoting from an article by Birding/Wild Birds Expert:  "Leucism, or leukism, is an abnormal plumage condition caused by a genetic mutation that prevents pigment, particularly melanin, from being properly deposited on a bird’s feathers."  "Leucism affects only the bird’s feathers, and typically only those with melanin pigment – usually dark feathers."  "Albinism, on the other hand, affects all the pigments, and albino birds show no color whatsoever in their feathers. Furthermore, an albino mutation also affects the bird’s other pigments in the skin and eyes, and albino birds show pale pink or reddish eyes, legs, feet and a pale bill, while leucistic birds often have normally colored eyes, legs, feet and bills."

May 13, 2015 Update on White Wood Duck
Today a check was made to determine if the white (leucistic) hen had returned to the nesting box where she was first discovered on May 21, 2014.  Another normal hen was occupying that nest box, incubating 14 eggs.   A check with the fiber optic camera of the box Ki-Be students built and installed about 100 yards away revealed the white hen.  We were able to take a photo of her on the nest (apparently a starling had brought grass in to make a nest prior to the wood duck hen taking over the nest).
 Note the names on the inside of the box, students sign the box so the wood duck hen and ducklings would know who built their box.  The hen was captured and banded (#22694); 12 eggs were counted; a few pictures taken ; and then she was returned to her nest to finish her incubation.

     

May 2016 Update on White Wood Duck
Nest box checks in the spring of 2016 confirmed the white wood duck had a successful nest just prior to our inspection on May 14, 2016.  The hens presence was confirmed by the landowner sighting the hen in the box and the unique white down found in the nest box.  Of the 11 eggs in the clutch, 9 duckling were successfully hatched.

May 6, 2017 Update on White Wood Duck
On April 27, 2017 we checked the two adjacent boxes the white wood duck had nested in in 2014, 2015, & 2016.  To our disappointment we did not find her in either box , nor in another near-by box.  In conversations with the landowner he indicated he had seen her in the river near an adjacent island.  A search for the elusive white wood duck was was going to be necessary.  Plans were made for a "search team" to boat down the Yakima River near Benton City in search of the elusive white wood duck.  On May 6th the search team departed the boat launch and headed down stream checking all the boxes that we normally can only access from the river by boat, peaking into the boxes with our fiber optic inspection camera.  We discovered several normal hens in the first few boxes so went ahead and captured/banded these hens as part of our hen check/banding efforts.   Anticipation heightened as we approached the island which we knew had 6 potential nest boxes.  On the first box we checked - there she was, the White Wood Duck, hen # 1146-22694.  She was sitting on 10 eggs in nest box #F40.  Although our "search" was completed we continued to check the remaining boxes in that section of the river, banding a total of 13 hens.


 

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