Wood Duck male photo by Steve Berliner
What an incredibly beautiful bird is the Wood Duck. Many people actually consider the wood duck as being the most beautiful of all water fowl. They are about 19 – 21 inches long with an average wingspan of 29 inches. As you can see from this great photo by Steve Berliner, the adult male or drake has distinctive multi-colored iridescent plumage and red eyes.
The female, as you will see in another photo, is less colorful. She is mostly brown and has a white eye ring and a white throat. Both the male and female have crested heads. Listen to the wood duck’s call here:
The wood duck is one of the only ducks that nests in trees. There breeding habitat is near wooded swamps, marshes, shallow lakes and ponds in eastern North America and the west coast of the U.S. and Mexico. When they are swimming wood ducks bob their heads back and forth in a jerking motion making them pretty easy to spot.
Wood Duck Pair photo by Steve Berliner
The wood duck nests in trees near water, sometimes directly over water but other times up to a mile away. After hatching, the ducklings jump down from the nest tree and make their way to the water.
The wood duck population was in serious decline at the beginning of the 20th century because of over hunting and loss of suitable nesting sites. Some changes in hunting laws and a program of nestbox construction in suitable habitat has returned the wood duck to sustainable numbers.
Wood Duck drake sitting in a tree photo by Steve Berliner
If you are a landowner or manager with property near a lake, pond or stream, you could have some of these beautiful ducks breeding on your own property. I had the opportunity to see several wood ducks up close in an oak tree next to the Sacramento River just last week while on a bird outing.
I can’t even convey to you how impressed I am with these beautiful birds. If you are interested in building a wood duck nestbox to help increase the wood duck population in your area, click on the “Build Your Own Birdhouses” link here or in the right blog column. I have also put a nestbox diagram in the resources section of the blog.