American Wood Duck
The American Wood Duck is one of the most colorful North American waterfowl. The wood duck is a medium-sized perching duck. The population of the wood duck was in serious decline in the late 19th century as a result of severe habitat loss and market hunting both for meat and plumage for the ladies’ hat market in Europe. By the beginning of the 20th century, american wood ducks had virtually disappeared from much of their former range.
In response to the Migratory Bird Treaty established in 1916 and enactment of the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, wood duck populations began to recover slowly. By ending unregulated hunting and taking measures to protect remaining habitat, wood duck populations began to rebound in the 1920s. The development of the artificial nesting box in the 1930s gave an additional boost to wood duck production.
Male – The male American Wood Duck has a long green/blue metallic crest. A white line extends from the beak, over the eye, and along the crest. There are also white markings along the base of the crest and the front of the throat. A red/brown breast, dark green/blue back and wings, white belly, red beak with black central stripe and tip with yellow at the base, and red eyes.
Female – The female is much less colorful with a greyish brown plumage, dark-brown eyes, narrow yellow eye-ring with large white patch and stripe around the eye, whitish throat, and grey beak.
Eclipse – The male in eclipse plumage is similar to the female but has more white around the chin and lacks the female’s white patch/stripe around the eye. The male can also be identified by having a red eye and reddish beak.
Size: – Typical Adult is about 19 inches.
Food: – Surface feeding on aquatic plants, vegetation, berries, seeds, and insects.
Habitat: – Wooded swamps, lakes, marshes in eastern North America, west coast of United States, and western Mexico. Northern birds winter in southern USA near the Atlantic coast and southern birds are non-migratory.
Breeding Season: – February to May.
Eggs: – 7 to 15 (ivory white color).
Notes: – The American Wood Duck or Carolina Duck is a medium sized perching duck. There was a serious decline of Wood ducks in the 19th century due to hunting for both meat and plumage. During the 20th century numbers rapidly increased due to protection and development of artificial nesting boxes. This duck nests in tree hollows and has sharp claws to help it grip when perching.
The different types of wild ducks can be grouped into puddle, aka “dabbling” and diving ducks. The dabblers mostly feed in smaller bodies of shallow water or along shorelines, where they are able to tip their bodies forward to reach their food on the bottom. There are divers who feed in deeper water where they dive and pursue their quarry. Some of these birds, the Harlequin Duck for example, actually dives to the bottom of fast-flowing waters and feeds on life forms attached to rocks.