Aix sponsa - Linnaeus
Anatidae (Perching Duck) Family
Photo courtesy Mike Carter, Pensacola, Florida
The wood duck is a medium-sized perching duck. A typical adult is from 19 to 21 inches in length with a wingspan of between 26 to 29 inches. This is about three-quarters of the length of an adult mallard. It shares its genus with the Asian Mandarin duck (Aix galericulata). The adult male seen here has distinctive multicolored iridescent plumage and red eyes,with a distinctive white flare down the neck. The female is less colorful, has a white eye-ring and a whitish throat. Both adults have crested heads.
Its preferred habitat is wooded swamps, shallow lakes, marshes or ponds, and creeks in eastern North America, the west coast of the United States and western Mexico. They usually nest in cavities in trees close to water, although they will take advantage of nesting boxes in wetland locations if available. Females line their nests with feathers and other soft materials, at elevations that provides some protection from predators.
Unlike most other ducks, the wood duck has sharp claws for perching in trees and can, in southern regions, produce two broods in a single season; the only North American duck that can do so.Females typically lay between 7 and 15 white-tan eggs that incubate for an average of 30 days. However, if nesting boxes are placed too close together, females may lay eggs in the nests of their neighbours, which may lead to nests which may contain as many as 30 eggs and unsuccessful incubation, a behaviour known as "nest dumping".
After hatching, the ducklings jump down from the nest tree and make their way to water. The mother calls them to her, but does not help them in any way. They prefer nesting over water so the young have a soft landing, but will nest up to 450 feet away from the shoreline. The day after they hatch, the young climb to the nest entrance and jump to the ground. The ducklings can swim and find their own food by this time.
These birds feed by dabbling or walking on land. They mainly eat berries, acorns, and seeds, but also insects, making them omnivores.
The birds are year-round residents in parts of its southern range, but the northern populations migrate south for the winter. They overwinter in the southern United States near the Atlantic coast. The wood duck is also popular, due to their attractive plumage.