Wood Duck

Wood Duck

Acorn duck, American wood duck, Carolina duck, Carolina wood duck, Aquealer, Summer duck, Woodie

Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
Aix
SPECIES
Aix sponsa
Population size
3.5 Mln
Life Span
3-15 yrs
TOP SPEED
88.5 km/h
WEIGHT
635-681 g
LENGTH
47-54 cm
WINGSPAN
66-73 cm

The Wood duck is among the most stunningly beautiful of all water birds. Males are iridescent green and chestnut, with ornate patterns on almost every feather, while the elegant female has a delicate white pattern around her eye and a distinctive profile. These birds inhabit wooded swamps, where their nests are in holes up in trees or in the nest boxes around lake margins. These are one of a few duck species that have strong claws to perch on branches and grip bark. In 1918 this species was near extinction as a result of habitat loss and hunting. Wildlife management has fortunately protected this species so that it is amongst the most common ducks today in the eastern US.

Di

Diurnal

Om

Omnivore

Se

Semiaquatic

Wa

Waterfowl

Pr

Precocial

Na

Natatorial

Te

Terrestrial

Co

Congregatory

Ov

Oviparous

Mo

Monogamy

So

Social

Fl

Flocking

Do

Dominance hierarchy

Pa

Partial Migrant

W

starts with

Distribution

Geography

Wood ducks are widespread across North America. Larger population breeds in Manitoba east to Nova Scotia, also south to Florida, Texas, the Gulf of Mexico, and Cuba. There is also a small Pacific coast population that breeds from British Columbia in Canada to California in the United States. These birds are year-round residents in parts of their southern range, but the northern populations migrate south for the winter. They overwinter in the southern United States near the Atlantic Coast. Wood ducks inhabit wooded areas on the banks of lakes, freshwater ponds, quiet rivers, wooded swamps, marshes, and creeks.

Wood Duck habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Wood ducks are diurnal birds and sleep on the water, except for females with ducklings. They feed by walking on land or dabbling, meaning they search for food from the surface of the water. They are social and often gather in flocks in the evening. They also migrate in small flocks or pairs. Although not territorial, Wood ducks will protect their mates by chasing, pecking, and hitting. Such battles are often short. When threatening another bird, they will jerk and jab with their beaks. Males are assumed to be dominant over females, adults over young birds. Adults have 12 calls and ducklings have 5. Most calls made by adults are warning calls or to attract mates. Males and females both have pre-flight calls, and females have calls for locating their mate and calling their ducklings. Ducklings can make calls at 2 to 3 days old, have an alarm, threatening, and contact calls.

Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

Wood ducks are omnivorous but mainly eat vegetal matter, rice, and water lentils. They also eat fruits, berries, hazelnuts, aquatic plants and their seeds, invertebrates, and aquatic insects.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
in the south: February to early March, in the north: mid-March to mid-April
INCUBATION PERIOD
1 month
INDEPENDENT AGE
56-70 days
FEMALE NAME
duck
MALE NAME
drake
BABY NAME
duckling
BABY CARRYING
6-15 eggs

This species is serially monogamous, with a male staying with one female during one breeding season but mating with a different female for the next year. A male uses his colorful plumage to attract a female, while a female uses a loud penetrating call when attracting males. There are several courtship displays, including mutual preening and a wing-and-tail-flash, when a male raises his wings and tail rapidly, showing his broadside to the female. When mating is over, males migrate to a different location to molt. These ducks breed in February to early March in the southern areas, where they may raise two broods per breeding season, while in the north it is mid-March to mid-April. They nest alone in a tree close to water, sometimes above. 6-15 whitish eggs are laid, incubated by the female for about one month, who then rears them on her own. The ducklings leave their nest around 24 hours after hatching. They begin to feed themselves as soon as they have left the nest, and after about 56-70 days old they are independent. Ducklings are mature when they are one year old.

Population

Population threats

Due to habitat destruction and hunting, wood ducks were nearly extinct in the early 1900s. Today they are thriving, despite being hunted. The greatest threat is perhaps habitat degradation and loss, due to drainage of swamps and further human activities which destroy or alter forested wetlands.

Population number

According to the What Bird resource, the total population size of the Wood duck is around 3.5 million individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are increasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The scientific name of this bird, Aixsponsa, means “waterbird in bridal dress”, which refers to the showy breeding plumage of the male.
  • If a predator comes near the nest, the female makes her alarm call and her chicks run towards the water for protection, while their mother swims away from them, doing the “broken-wing” display in order to attract the predator.
  • More than 15 eggs are sometimes laid in one nest because other females use a working nest, which then becomes a “communal nest”.
  • A group of ducks can be called "a flush of ducks", "a brace of ducks", "paddling of ducks", a "team of ducks" or a "raft of ducks",
  • After hatching, ducklings jump from their nest tree and head to water. Their mother calls to them but does not offer any help. The ducklings can jump from more than 50 feet without injury.

References

1. Wood Duck Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wood_duck
2. Wood Duck on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/22680104/0
3. Xeno-canto bird call - https://xeno-canto.org/679723

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