Male wood ducks (Aix sponsa) have some of the most stunning and intricate plumage found among ducks. With their chestnut and green bodies, buffy sides, ornate white patterns, red eyes and red bill base, male wood ducks are hard to confuse with other ducks. Female wood ducks are grey brown and nowhere near as showy as their male counterparts. A large white eye patch distinguishes female wood ducks from other mono-color female ducks.
This shy species lives in heavily wooded swamps and along rivers, streams or lakes with nearby trees. Wood ducks have claws on their feet enabling them to grip bark and perch. They can also fly among trees and woods. Except for the Southwest, wood ducks can be found throughout most of the continental United States during at least part of the year.
Wood ducks eat seeds, fruits and insects by dabbling or shallow dives. When aquatic food is unavailable, they will move into woods or fields and eat acorns, other nuts, seeds and grains.
Wood ducks nest in tree cavities near water or even directly over the water. Since they do not make their own cavities and suitable nesting holes are often in short supply, wood ducks readily use nest boxes.
Near the turn of the 20th Century wood ducks faced extinction. Populations rebounded after hunting restrictions were enacted and nest box programs were initiated.
This wood duck pair was photographed on a pond at the Crystal Lake Fish Hatchery (Shasta County CA).