Photo: Arthur Morris/Vireo

Wood Duck

Aix sponsa

Beautiful and unique, this duck of woodland ponds and river swamps has no close relatives, except for the Mandarin Duck of eastern Asia. Abundant in eastern North America in Audubon's time, the Wood Duck population declined seriously during the late 19th century because of hunting and loss of nesting sites. Its recovery to healthy numbers was an early triumph of wildlife management.
Conservation status Early in 20th century, species was thought to be threatened with extinction. Main cause of decline probably loss of nest sites due to cutting of large trees, combined with hunting pressure. Legal protection and provision of nest boxes helped recovery; many thousands of nest boxes now occupied by Wood Ducks in U.S. and southern Canada. In recent years, apparently has been expanding range in north and west.
Family Ducks and Geese
Habitat Wooded swamps, rivers, ponds. Favors shallow inland lakes, ponds, slow-moving rivers, swamps, mainly those surrounded by deciduous or mixed woodland. Often in places where large trees overhang the water, creating shady conditions. Also in open marshes within generally forested country.
Beautiful and unique, this duck of woodland ponds and river swamps has no close relatives, except for the Mandarin Duck of eastern Asia. Abundant in eastern North America in Audubon's time, the Wood Duck population declined seriously during the late 19th century because of hunting and loss of nesting sites. Its recovery to healthy numbers was an early triumph of wildlife management.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult female
  • juvenile male
  • adult male
  • adult male
Feeding Behavior

forages in water by taking food from surface, submerging head and neck, occasionally up-ending; also by walking on land.


Eggs

9-14, sometimes 6-15. Dull white to pale buff. Females frequently lay eggs in each others' nests, sometimes in "dump nests" where no incubation ever takes place. Incubation is by female only, 25-35 days. Young: ducklings remain in nest until morning after hatching. Clinging with sharp claws and bracing with tails, young climb to cavity entrance, jump to ground. Female tends young. Two or more broods may combine. Young are tended by females for 5-6 weeks, capable of flight at about 8-9 weeks. 1 brood per year in north, often 2 in south.


Young

ducklings remain in nest until morning after hatching. Clinging with sharp claws and bracing with tails, young climb to cavity entrance, jump to ground. Female tends young. Two or more broods may combine. Young are tended by females for 5-6 weeks, capable of flight at about 8-9 weeks. 1 brood per year in north, often 2 in south.

Diet

mostly seeds. Feeds on aquatic plants and their seeds, fallen seeds of trees and shrubs, also insects and crustaceans. Acorns are a major part of diet in many areas. Also comes to fields to feed on waste grain. Young feed mainly on insects and other invertebrates.


Nesting

Courtship displays of male involve postures that show off colorful plumage. Nest sites are in large tree cavities near water, up to 65' above ground. Cavity lined with down. Rarely nests in hollow fallen logs, barn lofts, crevices in rocks. Uses artificial nest boxes, even when these are placed low and in open marsh.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Northern birds migratory; southern females may be permanent residents. Movements of males variable; pairs form on wintering grounds and male follows female to nesting range, so a male might migrate far north one spring and only a short distance the next, depending on the origin of his mate for that year.

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Migration

Northern birds migratory; southern females may be permanent residents. Movements of males variable; pairs form on wintering grounds and male follows female to nesting range, so a male might migrate far north one spring and only a short distance the next, depending on the origin of his mate for that year.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Female, loud wooo-eeek!; male, softer jeee? or ter-weeeee?
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Duck-like Birds Surface Feeding Ducks

Wood Duck

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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