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Gresham wood ducks, wildlife enjoy tasty fall treats as they fall into Johnson Creek

COURTESY PHOTO: CAROL ZYVATKAUSKAS  - A juvenile wood duck takes off with an acorn plucked out of Johnson Creek.

It is one of the most coveted fall treats for Gresham's wildlife — the tasty acorn.

Acorns, or oaknuts, are the nuts of oak trees, which can be found all across East Multnomah County, including many abutting Johnson Creek. As the acorns begin to fall during late summer, animals love to gobble them up.

For one lucky pair of wood ducks in Gresham last week, a rambunctious squirrel made plenty of acorns drop into the river for easy access. The squirrel was knocking the nuts down into the water Thursday morning, Sept. 16, to the delight of the ducks.

COURTESY PHOTO: LAITCHE — WIKIMEDIA COMMONS - Acorns are a popular meal for wildlife. The two wood ducks enjoying the feast were likely juveniles because they hadn't come into their full colors. They also had dark stripes behind their eyes, which often signifies a young bird.

The ducks gulped down the acorns after chomping with their beaks to dislodge the tough cupule — cap — of the nuts.

Acorns are 1-6 centimeters long and take between 6 to 24 months to mature. In Gresham they tend to drop out of trees in August to November. Acorns are rich in nutrients, so they make for a great meal.

Wood ducks feed in wet areas, including lakes and streams, flooded woodlands, and wooded swamps.

COURTESY PHOTO: CAROL ZYVATKAUSKAS  - Two young wood ducks enjoyed a banquet of acorns knocked into Johnson Creek by a squirrel Thursday morning, Sept. 16. According to the Wood Duck Fact Sheet of the Lincoln Park Zoo, these birds feed by dabbling or walking on land. Dabbling means to search for food from the surface of the water, as opposed to diving below the surface to find food. While across are a favorite, they also eat berries, seeds and insects.

In addition to wood ducks and mallards, many other critters enjoy acorns, including jays, pigeons, woodpeckers, mice, squirrels, pigs, bears and deer.

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