Wood Duck

Wood Duck drakeAix sponsa

The wood duck is one of the most colorful waterfowl. It is commonly found near lakes and wooded potholes, where nuts, berries and other food sources are easily found. Wood ducks nest throughout Minnesota and readily use man-made nest boxes.

Identification

General description: Broad wings and a long square tail.

Length: About 20 inches.

Weight: One and a half pounds.

Color: The male (drake) has a blue-green crested head with white stripes, a reddish brown breast, buff colored sides and red eyes. Females (hens) are brown with a white speckled breast, crested head, and distinctive white eye ring.

Sounds: A "wee-e-e-e-k, wee-e-e-e-k" whistle by the hen is the most commonly heard wood duck sound.

Wood Duck hen and chicks

Reproduction

Wood ducks nest in hollow trees. Female wood ducks pluck down from their breasts to line the nest, where they lay about 10 to 15 eggs during the spring. Hatching takes place 28 to 31 days later. Ducklings begin to fly eight to ten weeks after hatching.

Food

Wood ducks eat acorns, weed seeds, berries, insects, and plants.

Predators

Mink, raccoons, red-tailed hawks, great horned owls, and human hunters.

Habitat and range

Wooded river bottoms, flooded hardwood forests and wooded potholes and lakes. Wood ducks nest throughout the United States and southeastern Canada. They spend the winter in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Florida, and other southeastern states, as well as in California.

Range Map

Population and management

Biologists believe more than 100,000 wood ducks breed in Minnesota each spring. The wood duck was once almost extinct because of habitat loss due to the lack of old, dead trees where these ducks nest. But management efforts, such as the use of artificial nest boxes, have helped restore wood duck populations.

Fun facts

Wood ducks are also called woodies. Unlike most ducks, wood ducks have a strong grip and can perch on branches. The Avon Hills IBA has a very high breeding Wood Duck population. Fall concentrations have totaled 400 birds on just one remote Collegeville Township bog.