Wood duck

The red-eyed hipsters of the duck world

Frank Vassen

The wood duck is one of the most stunningly colorful waterfowl in North America. Their appearance is so striking that they are often considered the continent’s most beautiful duck species. The males, especially, are known for their dazzling array of colors and intricate patterns, while females, though less flamboyant, have their own subtle beauty.

Males boast a distinctive iridescent plumage with shades of green, blue, and purple on their heads, which sports an elegant, fan-shaped crest. Their eyes are red, and their bill is brightly patterned in colors of yellow, white, black, and red. During the breeding season, males are further adorned with a striking white patch on the throat and a chestnut breast. The female Wood Duck is more muted in color, with a gray-brown body, white belly, and a distinctive white eye ring and throat patch. Both sexes have a unique, boxy, rectangular tail and white streaks on the back of their wings, which are visible in flight.

The wood duck is a species of perching duck, which means they have strong claws that are well-adapted to grasping branches and perching on trees. This arboreal tendency is also reflected in their nesting habits, as they are one of the few duck species that nest in tree cavities. They prefer wooded wetlands, swamps, and freshwater marshes as their habitats.

Historically, the late 19th century saw a dramatic decline in wood duck populations. Excessive hunting for their meat and the demand for their feathers in the millinery trade, combined with widespread habitat loss due to logging and land conversion, pushed the Wood Duck to the brink of extinction in much of its range.

The conservation response to protect the wood duck is one of the early success stories in North American wildlife management. Legal protections were established with the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and habitat conservation efforts were initiated.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Bahamas
2020
Non-Breeding
Bermuda
2020
Seasonality Uncertain
Canada
2020
Cuba
2020
Denmark
2020
Seasonality Uncertain
Guadeloupe
2020
Seasonality Uncertain
Iceland
2020
Seasonality Uncertain
Mexico
2020
Portugal
2020
Seasonality Uncertain
Puerto Rico
2020
Seasonality Uncertain
Saint Pierre
2020
Breeding
Spain
2020
Seasonality Uncertain: Canary Is.
St. Kitts & Nevis
2020
Seasonality Uncertain
Turks & Caicos
2020
Seasonality Uncertain
United States
2020

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd / Flock

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No