The wood duck is one of only a few American ducks that can perch and nest in trees. They will also use man-made nesting boxes in areas where tree cavities are scarce. They tend to build their nests within one mile of a lake shore, river bank, or other body of water. Wood ducks are monogamous birds that form pairs in January and mate in the spring. The male tries to impress the female and if she is stirred she will follow him. A clutch usually consists of 6-16 white eggs. The hen lays one each day and incubates them for about 27 days. Just before they hatch, the drake will leave the nest. The day after hatching, the ducklings must jump down to the ground from the nest tree and follow their mother to water. The ducklings are able to jump from heights of up to 300 feet without suffering any injury. They do not begin to fly until after their mother has left (8-9 weeks). Wood ducks live about 4 years in the wild.
Wood Duck Facts
- Wood ducks measure on average around 3 feet long.
- Wood ducks are shy and skittish by nature.
- Wood ducks can fly 30 miles an hour.
- The wood duck was once brought to the brink of extinction in the early 1900’s, but numbers have significantly rebounded since.
- Wood ducks like to nest in dead, rotted out trees where they can find a nest cavity.
- Female wood ducks will line their nest with soft down feathers taken from her breast.
- Female wood ducks will often lay their eggs in another wood duck’s nest cavity and leave the offspring to be raised by another wood duck.
- Wood ducks will typically lay around 10 eggs per clutch, but much higher numbers have been found as a result of ‘egg-dumping’ by other females.
- Wood ducks prefer to find nest cavities high in trees. Typically, these cavities are formed when a high branch breaks from the tree and the wood has rotted.
- Wood ducks are dabblers, which means they take short, shallow dives in order to find food.
- Wood duck males will court females by swimming before them with their wings and tail elevated.
- Wood ducks are not very vocal and generally only produce a whistling sound once in a while.
- Molting for wood ducks begins in mid-summer.
- Wood ducks are sometimes called “Woodies.”
- To attract wood ducks, make a wood duck nest house out of wood and hang it on a tree near water. This will attract ducks to your area.
- Wood ducks are the only North American duck that regularly produces two broods in a single year.
Wood Duck Habitat
Wood ducks can be found throughout most of the United States, the southern edge of Canada, and parts of Mexico in the winter. These ducks are permanent residents in many southern states, but in northern states they will migrate to the south for the winter. They rest high in trees in wooded swamps, lakes, streams, and ponds.
What Do Wood Ducks Eat?
Wood ducks feed on berries, nuts, and seeds and also eat insects and invertebrates. “Dabbling” is the most common method of feeding. This is where the duck sticks its head under the water to get food.