17-1/2" long, with a 28" wingspan.
Wood Ducks are flamboyant in breeding plumage, practically unmistakable
with their brightly colored chestnut and yellow bodies, green droop-crested
heads, bright red bills, and bold white barring on their faces and
bodies. Females are drabber, with subtle iridescence on overall
grayish-brown bodies, spotted flanks, and a white teardrop surrounding
each eye. Juveniles appear similar to females, as do non-breeding
males in eclipse plumage (from June to September), although they
have the red bill and white facial markings.
seen on marine waters, the Wood Duck is a bird of wooded wetlands
and slow-moving, tree-lined rivers, with a preference for deciduous-tree
habitats. This cavity-nester requires either a natural cavity or
nest box to raise its young.
Ducks forage in the water by taking food from the surface and up-ending
to reach food underneath. They also graze on land. Pairs form on
the wintering grounds, and males attract females by showing off
their brightly colored plumage. Females demonstrate strong fidelity
to the sites where they hatched (philopatry), and they lead their
mates back to those sites in the spring.
plant seeds make up the majority of the diet. Insects and other
aquatic invertebrates are also eaten, especially by young birds.
In areas with oak trees, acorns are a significant source of food.
Ducks nest in cavities near or above water, up to 65 feet high.
The most common natural cavities are Pileated Woodpecker holes,
but artificial nest boxes are used as well. The cavity is lined
with down. The female lays 9 to 14 eggs and incubates them for 25
to 35 days. After the female begins incubation, the pair breaks
up. After one day in the nest, the young leap to the ground or water,
often quite a long jump. The young can swim and feed themselves,
but the female continues to tend them for 5 to 6 weeks. She leaves
before they can fly, however. They fledge when they are 8 to 9 weeks
Wood Ducks are short-distance migrants, but almost 75% of the Wood
Ducks in the Pacific Flyway are non-migratory. Those that are migratory
fly from British Columbia through western Washington and winter
in the Central Valley of California. Some western Washington breeders
do not appear to be migratory, although most are. Those from eastern
Washington are also migratory. Males gather in a post-breeding flock
and molt before the fall migration.
Ducks declined seriously during the late 19th Century due to over-hunting
and habitat loss, and were threatened with extinction early in the
20th Century. Legal protection, beginning in 1918 with the Migratory
Bird Treaty Act, and major initiatives to provide nest boxes in
appropriate habitat have helped the Wood Duck recover to healthy
numbers. Expanding beaver populations throughout the Wood Duck's
range have also helped the population rebound as beavers create
an ideal forested wetland habitat for Wood Ducks.