Wood Duck

Aix sponsa

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Perhaps one of the most beautiful birds in North America, the image of the Wood Duck has emblazoned everything from fine art to postage stamps. As with most birds, the male’s plumage is considerably brighter and more ornate than the female’s. The male’s body is a patchwork of iridescent green, tan, white, chestnut and black feathers creating bold patterns. The head is crested and the bill is white and orange. The eye is bright red. Females and juveniles of both sexes are a dull gray-brown with a speckled breast. The duck has a unique, boxy shape with a thin neck and broad tail. They can appear awkward when walking, but are both graceful and highly maneuverable in the air. Wood Ducks may congregate together, but usually only in groups of no more than twenty individuals.

Males and females will pair up for mating in January and will begin producing eggs in the Spring. They are the only North American duck to regularly produce two broods per year. Food sources include seeds, fruits, insects and various invertebrates.

Range and Habitat

Wood Ducks can be found all over the continental United States, southern Canada and northern Mexico. They are found year-round in the eastern U.S. and along the Pacific Coast of California, Oregon and Washington. Their preferred habitat is heavily wooded swamps and marshes; or in the forests surrounding lakes and ponds. Unlike other waterfowl, they do not nest on the ground but rather in the hollows of trees as high as 50 feet (15 m) above the ground. When ducklings are ready to leave the nest, they must leap from these heights into the water below. Their downy feathers help protect them from injury.

Conservation Status