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The Wood Duck Aix sponsa at Terra Nostra Park in Furnas.


The now rather famous male Wood Duck Aix sponsa in Terra Nostra Park in Furnas, São Miguel was last reported from there 2009-03-27. Thereafter there was no signs of him, but it soon was revealed that he had moved just a short bit to the ponds at Parque Florestal das Furnas. The reason was that there just had been a release of some domestic ducks there. When Jan Oldebring visited the area in mid June there were altogether now 6 (3 males, 3 females) Mandarin Ducks Aix galericulata and 5 (2 males, 3 females) Wood Ducks, plus the free flying male from Terra Nostra. The latter was defending one of the females from the others, a rather easy task since the domestic ones were all winged (and ringed) and unable to fly.
   This male Wood Duck has over the years made many birders to pay the entrance fee to the botanical park in Furnas, and he has even got the nickname "Woody the Tick". Apart from this bird the Terra Nostra Park is anyway a nice place to visit, has got a huge natural heated pool to swim in, and is a good place where to lock for passerine migrants. "Woody" was first reported from the park in 2002-10-12, and has after that obviously spent most of his time in the park itself or in the close neighbourhood of Furnas. But he has, as far as known, never been seen in any of the larger lakes on São Miguel, not even at Lagoa das Furnas which is only a kilometre away.
   After it was confirmed by the staff at Terra Nostra Park that the bird was of "wild" origin - anyway arriving as a free-flying unmarked individual, and the bird was approved by the Portuguese Rarity Committee - there have been many birders getting the species on their Western Palearctic bird lists by visiting "Woody" at Furnas. Lately there have been some doubts and discussions about the situation, since there for a period also have been Mandarin Ducks Aix galericulata and at least one other adult male Wood Duck (ringed) in the park. Further more there is also one male Wood Duck present in a "mini-zoo" at Monte Brasil, Angra de Heroismo, Terceira.
   So - how about the Wood Ducks on the Azores list? Checking the database there are a total of 9 birds listed. One of these - a male - was seen on Flores 2002-09-05, and could possible be the same individual that turned up at Terra Nostra Park a month later. Of the other birds the second bird on the list is of special interest, since this female was shot in Flores in January 1985 and was ringed in US in November 1984. So there are certainly wild birds arriving from west! All other sightings seem also well fitted in to the pattern of autumn or winter arrivals which we know from other Nearctic vagrant duck species. And Fernando, the man in charge for the domestic birds in Terra Nostra Park, has now confirmed that the bird still on the spot 2009-03-27 is the same individual as the one arriving in 2002-10-12.
   That wintering birds, especially ducks and gulls, tend to adapt to local flocks of domestic birds fed by humans is no news. And especially in remote areas like in the Azores where wetlands are very rare, and most of these are containing a few domestic ducks. There are several cases where wild birds are directed to places which seem far from optimal but still are the best available. Just to mention two examples there are now a wild female Ring-necked Duck Aythya collaris in Terra Nostra Park gladly accepting bred from visitors. And the second Bufflehead Bucephala albeola for Azores spent almost three months in a tiny concrete pond at the main square in Santa Cruz, Graciosa in 2000-2001, the most suitable (and only) inland water on this island!
   Thanks to Gerbrand Michielsen and Filipe Barata for helping out with local contacts and information.


"Wild and spontaneous". The Wood Duck at Terra Nostra Park 2009-01-08. At this time "Woody" clearly showed that the territory was his. He easily chased away a male Mandarin Duck, but he had for obvious reasons some difficulties to remove the Mute Swan. But he tried! Photo: Staffan Rodebrand.

Staffan Rodebrand, Sweden.

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