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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

BirdNote®: Frank Bellrose and the Wood Ducks

Air Date: Week of

Sometimes all you need is the dedication of a few individuals to help protect a species and reverse its decline. As BirdNote®’s Mary McCann discovered, that was the case with a man named Frank Bellrose and the wood ducks he so loved. (Photo: Tom Grey ©)



GELLERMAN: Never underestimate the power of a few passionate people to change the world. In today's BirdNote®, Mary McCann reports that’s how the Aix sponsa, the Wood Duck, was saved.


MCCANN: The drake Wood Duck is perhaps the most beautiful of all North American ducks. His Latin name means: dressed in finery, ready for his wedding. Yet the Wood Duck once seemed threatened with extinction.


A male wood duck afloat. (Photo: Tom Grey ©)

MCCANN: In the 1800s, they were possibly the most abundant ducks east of the Mississippi. But the draining of wetlands, the cutting of forests, and market hunting caused precipitous declines. In 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act completely banned the hunting of Wood Ducks for 23 years. This protection and the concern of dedicated individuals brought the Wood Duck back.


MCCANN: Frank Bellrose was preeminent among those advocates. He became fascinated by the birds while canoeing the Illinois River as a young man in the 1930s.

A pair of wood ducks looking right at the camera. (Photo: Tom Grey ©)


MCCANN: Bellrose went on to study them for more than 50 years. His intimate knowledge of their ecology helped him invent a predator-proof nesting box that is now a mainstay of Wood Duck conservation.


GELERMAN: That's Mary McCann with BirdNote®. To see some quacking good photos, waddle over to our website, L-O-E dot org.



Sounds of Wood Duck provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.

BirdNote® Frank Bellrose and The Wood Ducks was written by Todd Peterson.


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