Wood Duck
FWS Focus

Overview

Scientific Name

Aix sponsa
Common Name
Wood Duck
FWS Category
Birds
Kingdom

Location in Taxonomic Tree

Genus
Species

Identification Numbers

TSN:

Characteristics

Characteristic category

Geography

Characteristics

Range

Wood ducks are common year-round in the southern United States and during summer throughout the United States and southern Canada. Wood ducks breed in most of the central and eastern United States, but they migrate from northern states and provinces to southern areas during early fall.

The wood duck population declined dramatically during the late 19th century because of over-harvesting and loss of nesting habitat. Due to wildlife management efforts, the species recovered. Although population estimates are not known for wood ducks, based on breeding surveys perhaps as many as 3 million breeding pairs exist across North America today. 

 

Characteristic category

Lifecycle

Characteristics

Lifecycle

Wood ducks in northern regions partake in migration flights to avoid harsh winter conditions, then travel back north in the spring to breed. However, wood ducks are common year-round in the southern United States where wooded wetland habitats allow for nesting cavities.   

Reproduction

Wood ducks nest primarily in tree cavities, which are hollow areas in living and dead trees. They will also nest in man-made nesting boxes. Like other duck species, females line nests with feathers. Females typically lay between nine and 14 eggs. Within a day of hatching, ducklings climb out of the nest and fall into water or to the ground. Being small and light, the jump doesn't hurt the chicks.

Characteristic category

Physical Characteristics

Characteristics

Color & Pattern

Often considered one of the most beautiful duck species in North America, the male is multicolored with iridescent greens, blues and purples with a bold red bill. The female is more understated than the male being smoky gray in color. She has white circles around her eyes and bluish iridescent feathers on the wings.

 

Sound

Female wood duck calls are said to be a high-pitched and excited call. It is a two-part whistle described as ooeek or uh-week. The male call is more squeaky, thin and rising in nature. Phonetically described as jeeeeee.

Size & Shape

Wood ducks are a medium sized bird and are considered a perching duck, as they frequently can be seen standing on branches of trees. They have a crested head, the males more distinct than the females, a thin neck and a rectangular shaped tail. The wings are shorter than other ducks, allowing them to better maneuver through tree branches.

Measurements

Length: 18 to 22 in (47 to 55 cm)Wingspan: 26 to 29 in (66 to 73 cm)

Weight

Wood ducks are a small to medium sized duck with their weight ranging from one to two pounds (0.5 to 1 kilogram). 

Characteristic category

Overview

Characteristics

Overview

Often considered one of the most beautiful of duck species in North America, the male is multicolored with iridescent greens, blues and purples and have a bold red bill. True to their name, this species is found in or near forested swamps where they nest in the cavities of trees. Wood ducks are permeant residents in southern regions of the United States. 

Characteristic category

Habitat

Characteristics

Habitat

True to their name, wood ducks thrive in forested wetlands such as bottomland forests, swamps, freshwater marshes, streams, creeks and beaver ponds. Wood ducks nest primarily in tree cavities, which are hollow areas in living and dead trees. When placed in ideal locations, wood ducks will use man-made nesting boxes. 

River or Stream
Wetland
Forest

Land covered by evergreen trees in cool, northern latitudes. Also called taiga.

Characteristic category

Food

Characteristics

Food

Acorns are the primary winter food of choice, but the ducks also visit agricultural fields to feed on waste grain. Wood ducks will consume the seeds of bald cypress, hickory, gum, buttonbush and other species. During summer and fall, wood ducks feed on a variety of seeds, invertebrates and plants in shallow areas of lakes and wetlands.

Characteristic category

Behavior

Characteristics

Behavior

During the fall and winter, wood ducks begin their courtships displays to attract a mate. Male wood ducks raise their wings, heads and even their tails holding postures that best display their bright colors as they swim past females.

Geography

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