One of the most brilliantly colored waterfowl in North America, the wood duck is often considered one of the most beautiful ducks in the world. The male’s plumage is unmistakable, and the female has her own gorgeous charm.
- Bill: Red, white, black and yellow, slender
- Size: 18-20 inches long with 30-inch wingspan, long head crest
- Colors: White, black, iridescent, blue, brown, chestnut, green, gray, yellow, red
- Markings: Dimorphic species. The male has complex “painted” plumage with a dark iridescent head and crest bordered by white and a chestnut breast with white spots. The back, wings and tail are dark and iridescent. Flanks are yellow bordered by black and white, and the eye is red. Females are brown overall with white-streaked underparts and a white teardrop eye patch. The head is gray and blue and purple iridescent patches are visible in the wings.
Plants, insects, amphibians, seeds, nuts
Habitat and Migration:
Wood ducks prefer wooded areas with substantial water, such as swamps, ponds, lakes and rivers. They live year-round in the southeastern United States and along the Pacific Coast, as well as in Cuba and on other Caribbean islands. Their summer range extends throughout the northern United States and southern Canada, and in winter these ducks migrate to southwest Texas and Mexico. Outside of these wild ranges, wood ducks have been introduced as ornamental waterfowl in many places and can be seen in parks, zoos, gardens and similar habitats.
Wood ducks are not a vocal species but do have a thin, squeaky whistle “ooo-eeeeee” call that rises in pitch. Raspy quacks and threatening hisses are also used.
The wood duck is a perching duck that can be found high in trees in suitable habitat. While it is also a dabbling duck and will “tip up” for food while swimming, these ducks walk well on land and often forage beneath trees for nuts, seeds and insects. Males can be aggressive toward competitors and will hiss and charge other ducks to defend their territory and mates.
Wood ducks are cavity-nesting waterfowl that will nest in tree cavities or artificial nest boxes of the appropriate size. These are monogamous birds, and the female will incubate a brood of 8-15 eggs for 27-37 days. The female parent will then tend the precocial young for 55-70 days until their first flight. Northern wood duck populations only produce one brood per year, but southern pairs may produce two broods. If nests are close together, different females may “dump” eggs together into a single nest of 40 or more eggs, but the eggs do not incubate properly and few will hatch.
Attracting Wood Ducks:
In wild areas wood ducks are not common in backyards, but where the birds have been introduced ornamentally they can be less timid around humans and may visit large backyard ponds. Putting out nest boxes in appropriate habitats is another way to attract wood ducks, and nut-bearing trees such as oaks can provide them a tempting food source.
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