Wood Duck, Aix sponsa

The Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) is a medium-sized perching duck roughly three-quarters of the length of an adult Mallard.

The adult male has unique multi-colored iridescent plumage and red eyes. The female is less colorful with a white eye-ring and a whitish throat. Both adults have crested heads. When swimming, wood ducks bob their head back and forth in a jerking motion, which makes them easy to spot.

They breed in wooded swamps, shallow lakes, marshes or ponds throughout eastern North America and the west coast of the United States. They can usually be found nesting in tree cavities close to water, although they will take advantage of nesting boxes in wetland locations if available. Their personality is however somewhat shy and skittish.

Females typically lay between 9 and 14 eggs. However, if nesting boxes are placed too close together, females may lay eggs in the nests of their neighbors, which may lead to nests which may contain as many as 40 eggs and unsuccessful incubation. The day after they hatch, the young climb to the nest entrance and jump to the ground.

They overwinter in the southern United States near the Atlantic coast. In the southern parts of their range, they may be permanent residents.

These birds feed by dabbling or walking on land. They mainly eat plants and seeds.

The male’s call is a rising whistle; the female gives a whistled whoo-eek if startled.

The population of the Wood Duck was in serious decline at the beginning of the 20th century as a result of over-hunting and loss of suitable nesting sites. Changes in game laws and the construction of nesting boxes in suitable habitat resulted in this species’ return to sustainable numbers.

Image Caption: Male wood duck. Credit: Frank Vassen/Wikipedia (CC BY 2.0)