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Geese Ducks and Swans: Anatidae

Wood Duck (aix Sponsa): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: The male is more colorful than the female, with a metallic green crest and crown surrounding his purple face. Throat is white; tail is square. The body of both sexes is various shades of brown. Measures 17 to 20 inches (43 to 51 centimeters) and weighs about 1.3 pounds (0.6 kilograms).

Geographic range: Found in eastern North America from the southern tip of Florida to northern Nova Scotia, west across Quebec and Ontario to the southern tip of Texas.

Habitat: Wood ducks live in woodland streams and pools, river valleys, swamps and marshlands, and lakes.

Diet: Wood ducks feed primarily on aquatic vegetation. They also eat water and land invertebrates as well as berries, nuts, and seeds.

The wood duck is found in eastern North America, and migrates to Cuba, the Bahamas, and Mexico for the winter. (Robert J. Huffman/Field Mark Publications. Reproduced by permission.)

Behavior and reproduction: This duck migrates to Cuba, the Bahamas, and Mexico for the winter. It is territorial and will defend its range, which is about 24 acres (9.7 hectares) per breeding pair. Wood ducks are vocal, especially during migration.

Pairs form in the fall and are seasonally monogamous. The female lays anywhere from six to fifteen eggs in nests that are actually holes in tree trunks or former woodpecker holes. Incubation lasts twenty-eight to thirty-seven days, and the male leaves just a few days before ducklings hatch. Young leave the nest within two days and are ready to mate at one year. Snapping turtles are the primary predators of eggs and ducklings.

Wood ducks and people: Humans overhunted and destroyed habitats of the wood duck almost to extinction in the early 1900s. The hunting season was declared closed in 1918, which allowed for repopulation.

Conservation status: The white-winged wood duck is considered Endangered, and the black-billed wood duck is Vulnerable due to habitat destruction. ∎



Burk, Bruce. Waterfowl Studies: Geese and Swans. Vol. 3. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 1999.

Hehner, Mike, Chris Dorsey, and Greg Breining. North American Game Birds (Hunting and Fishing Library Series). Chanhassen, MN: Creative Publishing International, 2002.

Shurtleff, Lawton L., and Christopher Savage. The Wood Duck and the Mandarin: The Northern Wood Ducks. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1996.

Sibley, David Allen, Chris Elphik, and John B. Dunning, eds. The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior. New York: Knopf Publishing Group, 2001.


Barrow, Mary Reid. "School Helps Duck Family, and Students Get an Education." The Virginian Pilot (May 16, 2004).

Web sites:

"The Birdhouse Network: Wood Duck." Lab of Ornithology. http://birds.cornell.edu/birdhouse/bird_bios/speciesaccounts/wooduc.html (accessed on May 25, 2004).

Canada Goose Conservation Society. http://www.cgcs.demon.co.uk/ (accessed on May 25, 2004).

Howard, L. "Anatidae." Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Anatidae.html (accessed May 25, 2004).

"King Eider." Enature. http://www.enature.com/fieldguide/showSpeciesFT.asp?fotogID=548&curPageNum=1&recnum=BD0675 (accessed on May 25, 2004).

"Mute Swan." Tropical Birds of Paradise. http://www.auburnweb.com/paradise/birds/mute_swan.html (accessed on May 25, 2004).

"Nature: Wood Duck." Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/factsheets/birds/wood_duck/wood_duck.htm (accessed on June 1, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsGeese Ducks and Swans: Anatidae - Behavior And Reproduction, Mute Swan (cygnus Olor): Species Accounts, Canada Goose (branta Canadensis): Species Accounts - PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS, GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, GEESE DUCKS SWANS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVAT