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A photo of a Wood Duck (Aix sponsa), male
Wood Duck, Male

Wood Duck

Aix sponsa

The Wood Duck, known scientifically as Aix sponsa, is a medium-sized perching duck native to North America. It is one of the most splendidly plumaged waterfowl on the continent. Adult Wood Ducks measure from 47 to 54 cm in length with a wingspan of 66 to 73 cm, and weigh between 454 and 862 grams. The male is particularly striking with iridescent plumage and red eyes, complemented by a distinctive white flare down the neck. The female is more subdued in coloration, featuring a white eye-ring and a whitish throat. Both sexes boast crested heads, and their speculum is an iridescent blue-green with a white trailing edge.

Identification Tips

To identify the male Wood Duck, look for its multicolored iridescent plumage and red eyes, along with the white flare down its neck. The female can be recognized by her white eye-ring and whitish throat. Both sexes have crested heads, which are a key feature for identification.

Habitat

Wood Ducks inhabit wooded swamps, shallow lakes, marshes, ponds, and creeks. They show a preference for areas with ample tree cover close to water bodies.

Distribution

These ducks are found throughout the eastern United States, the west coast, parts of southern Canada, and the west coast of Mexico. Northern populations migrate south for the winter, while birds in the southern range tend to be year-round residents.

Behaviour

Wood Ducks are known for nesting in tree cavities near water and can produce two broods in a single season in southern regions. They may compete with other species for nesting sites and are known to practice "nest dumping" when nest boxes are placed too closely. The ducklings are precocial and capable of swimming and finding food shortly after hatching.

Song & Calls

The male Wood Duck emits a rising whistle, "jeeeeee," while the female makes a drawn-out, rising squeal, "do weep do weep," when flushed, and a sharp "cr-r-ek, cr-e-ek" as an alarm call.

Breeding

Females typically lay seven to fifteen eggs, which incubate for around thirty days. They line their nests with feathers and other soft materials, and the elevation of the nest provides some protection from predators.

Diet and Feeding

Wood Ducks are omnivores, feeding by dabbling or grazing on land. Their diet consists mainly of berries, acorns, seeds, and insects. They possess the ability to crush acorns in their gizzard after swallowing.

Conservation status

The Wood Duck is currently listed as Least Concern. Conservation efforts, including the establishment of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the erection of nesting boxes, have helped their populations rebound from historical declines. They are now the second most commonly hunted duck in North America, after the mallard.

Wood Duck Sounds

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Wood Duck Fun Facts

Did you know?
In 1918 Wood Ducks came near to extinction as a result of habitat loss and hunting.

Wood Ducks on Birda

Sightings

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Mandarin Duck

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