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 old.
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