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Wetland Waterfowl and Wildlife

Wood duck

Did you know

Wood ducks are a medium-sized perching duck. The breeding male has an iridescent green and white crested head, red eyes, red and white bill, chestnut breast, golden flanks and an iridescent back. The female is a drab version of the male but is considered striking compared to other duck hens.

Common name: Wood duck
Scientific name: Aix sponsa
Diet: Mainly herbivorous
Average life span: 4 years
Length: 47-54 cm
Weight: 450 g

Food & Habitat

Wooded wetlands, rivers, streams, lake and river edges.

The wood duck is mainly a herbivore, with plant foods such as seeds, fruits, aquatic plants, and acorns making up most of its diet. It also eats insects.

Breeding & Population

Wood ducks typically pair on the wintering grounds or on the return migration to the breeding grounds. They arrive on breeding grounds in April and nest in preformed tree cavities made by tree diseases, fire scars, lightning, and cavity-making birds like pileated woodpeckers for nest sites and also use artificial nest boxes. Females lay 7-15 white-tan eggs which they incubate for an average of 30 days. Male begins to spend less time with female once she begins incubating eggs. Females stay with young until they have fledged and then leave to undergo a feather moult.

Breeds in much of southern Canada and the eastern U.S. but is largely absent from U.S. Prairies, Great Plains and southwest.

Migration

Winter range includes extreme southern Ontario, the southern U.S. and Mexico (in smaller numbers).

Interesting facts

  • Considered by many to be the most beautiful of North American waterfowl, the wood duck is a perching duck that normally nests in cavities in trees.
  • In southern parts of the breeding range the wood duck regularly produces two broods in a single breeding season—and is the only North American duck to do so
  • Females will sometimes ‘parasitize’ or lay eggs in the nest of another wood duck
  • Latin name Aix sponsa means ‘in wedding raiment’
  • Unlike most other ducks, has sharp claws for perching in trees