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The Ivory Bill·Birds·Ducks & Grebes

Wood Ducks, Aix sponsa

Wood ducks on a log and in the water

Wood Ducks inhabit wetland areas, including swamps, marshes, wooded ponds, and rivers. They are native to North America and can be found across much of the continent, from southern Canada to the eastern and central parts of the United States. They prefer wooded habitats near water, providing nesting sites and ample food sources.

They are dabbling ducks, meaning they feed by tipping their bodies forward and grazing on vegetation and invertebrates near the water’s surface. Their diet consists of seeds, acorns, fruits, insects, snails, and small aquatic organisms. They also have the ability to perch and feed in trees, allowing them to access a wider range of food sources.

Wood Ducks are cavity nesters. They nest in tree cavities or nest boxes. They select nesting sites in close proximity to water, preferably in mature trees near the edges of wooded wetlands. They may use natural tree cavities or utilize man-made nest boxes provided by conservation efforts. See how to make and manage Duck Boxes. Wood Duck Nest Box Plans

Females lay about 7 to 15 eggs. They line the nest cavity with down feathers and wood chips to provide insulation and protection for the eggs. Incubation lasts for approximately 28 to 37 days, with the female taking the primary responsibility for incubating the eggs. During this period, the male may remain nearby to protect the nesting area.

After hatching, Wood Duck ducklings are precocial and capable of leaving the nest shortly after birth. The female calls them from the nest cavity, and the ducklings make their way to the water, often jumping from significant heights. The female leads and guides the young, providing protection, warmth, and teaching them to find food.

Wood Duck ducklings fledge at around 50 to 70 days of age, acquiring the ability to fly. They gradually become more independent but may remain with their mother for a while longer.

Wood Ducks in the southern US are mostly year around residents or only undertake short distance movements in response to changing water and food availability. They may move to nearby open water or larger wetland areas during the winter.

Northeastern Wood Ducks migrate along the Atlantic Flyway from New Brunswick to Georgia and south to eastern Texas and the West Indies. Western migratory birds use the Pacific Flyway from British Columbia to the Central Valley of California.

Wood Ducks are known for their stunning and vibrant plumage. Males have a combination of iridescent green, purple, and white feathers on their body, with distinctive patterns on their head and chest. Females have more muted colors, with a gray-brown body and a distinctive white eye-ring. Both male and female Wood Ducks have a distinctive crested head, which can be raised or lowered depending on their mood or level of alertness.

They have sharp claws on their webbed feet, enabling them to perch and climb branches or vegetation. This unique ability allows them to access food sources, such as seeds and fruits, that other waterfowl may not be able to reach.

Wood Ducks exhibit strong homing instincts, often returning to the same nesting areas or regions year after year. This behavior contributes to their site fidelity and can aid in conservation efforts by providing predictable locations for nesting boxes and habitat management.

Hobbyist-naturalists who provide duck boxes using advanced management methods have achieved greatly reduced duckling mortality rates, compared to naturally chosen cavities that are much more vulnerable to predators. See Duck Boxes Here