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Wood Duck

Aix sponsa

Dabbling Ducks Family

Waterfowl Identification

Male Wood Duck
Female Wood Duck
Similar Waterfowl:
Male wood ducks have a crested head that is iridescent green and purple with a white stripe leading from the eye to the end of the crest and another, narrower white stripe from the base of the bill to the tip of the crest. The throat is white and the chest is burgundy with white flecks, gradually grading into a white belly. The bill is brightly patterned black, white, and red. The legs and feet are dull straw-yellow, and the iris is red. Female wood ducks have a gray-brown head and neck with a brownish, green glossed crest. A white teardrop shaped patch surrounds the brownish-black eye. The throat is white and the breast is gray-brown stippled with white fading into the white belly. The back is olive-brown with a shimmer of iridescent green. The bill is blue-gray and the legs and feet are dull grayish-yellow.
Typical Size:
The male and female average 18 inches in length and weigh 1 1/2 pounds. They have a wingspan of 24 inches.
Wood ducks prefer riparian habitats, wooded swamps, and freshwater marshes.
Wood ducks breed across most of the central and eastern USA and southeastern Canada and along the Pacific coast from California to British Columbia. The highest breeding densities occur in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. In recent decades, the breeding range has expanded westward into the Great Plains region following development of wooded riparian corridors. Females nest in tree cavities or nest boxes and lay an average of 12 bone-white eggs.
Wood duck feed on seeds of sedges, smartweeds, pondweeds, and grasses, aquatic insects, mollusks, crustaceans and tadpoles found while foraging in and adjacent to mudflats or while dabbling in shallow water.
In the eastern US about 30% of the wood ducks are permanent residents and in the western US about 75% are permanent. Migratory wood ducks use the Atlantic Flyway from New Brunswick to Georgia and south to eastern Texas, and the West Indies. The western migratory birds use the Pacific Flyway from British Columbia to the Central Valley of California. Both populations winter over southern portions of their respective breeding ranges, with small numbers southwards to central Mexico.
Flyway Patterns:
The wood duck uses the Pacific and Atlantic flyways but no clearly defined migratory path exists for interior birds, although they seem to converge south of Kentucky along the Mississippi River floodplain.
Flight Formation:
Small irregular flocks with fast and erratic flight. They reach speeds of 55 MPH.
The male has a mellow OO-WETT OO-WETT and the female has a chirping CRR-EK CRR-EK.

Wood Duck Flight and Plumage Characteristics

This guide will help you recognize wood ducks on the wing - it emphasizes their fall and winter plumage patterns as well as size, shape, and flight characteristics. Wood ducks are most numerous in the Atlantic and Mississippi flyways and fewest in the Pacific and Central. Most are early migrants and have left the northern states by mid-November. They love wooded streams and ponds and to perche in trees. With speed and ease they fly through thick timber and often feed on acorns, berries, and grapes. The flocks are usually small. In the air, flight is swift and direct and their wings make a rustling or swishing sound. Often in flight, drakes call hoo-w-ett and hens have a cr-r-ek sound when frightened.