A lot of waterfowl enthusiasts claim a drake wood duck is hands-down the handsomest of all American ducks. In fact, many birders place a male woodie near the top of the list as one of our two or three prettiest birds, regardless of category.
I don't know if I'd go that far—our perception of what constitutes beauty being such a fundamentally subjective call. But I'll agree that a male wood duck in full regalia is astonishingly colorful—perhaps even gaudy…a feathered rainbow who seems to know he's elegantly imposing as he paddles in stately splendor along the edge of an April stream.
The above photo certainly doesn't do justice to this striking fellow. Not enough "reach" with my 300mm telephoto to properly fill the frame. But the best I could manage during the minute or so it took for the pair (note the far less colorful hen swimming a few yards to his rear) to cruise past the cottage near the island's tangled bank.
One of the things I look forward to every spring is watching pairs of wood ducks on the river. Alert and easily spooked, they aren't the easiest birds to photograph—and the truth is, I've never really tried. Maybe this year I'll make doing so a project. I'd like to be able to post a really day shot. The gorgeous woodie deserves a more worthy portrait of his royal attire.