As female ducks go, this one is pretty straightforward. The small crest and white area around the eye are diagnostic of Wood Duck, better known for the particularly stunning male.
Wood Ducks are common breeders in wetlands throughout New Hampshire, where they nest in hollow trees (or bird boxes). Because of habitat loss and overharvest however, the species became increasingly scarce by the early 1900s, at which point hunting was banned until 1941. Populations rebounded quickly, and were aided in this recovery by habitat protection and the increased use of nest boxes. As a result, they are once again one of our commonest ducks, and easily seen in spring along the edges of rivers or beaver ponds. If you’re particularly lucky, you may even experience the rare delight of finding a duck perched up in a tree! Listen also for the loud “ooo-eeeek” squeal made by the female when flushed – these are wary ducks and don’t usually let you get too close.
Photos by Walter Keane.