To bird lovers all over the country, the male Wood
Duck is the most beautiful duck species native to North America.
With his brilliant feathers, shimmering with green, violets, browns
and blacks highlighted with white, the male Wood Duck seems dressed
for a very special occasion. Female Wood Ducks are beautiful in
their own right. Females are less colorful with a gray-brown color
combined with white-speckled breast.
Wood Ducks are found throughout North America. They
are migratory waterfowl which move north in the spring and south in
the winter. However, some individuals are year-round Maryland
Wood Ducks live in bottomland forests, wooded lakes,
rivers, swamps and streams. Occasionally, they can be found in city
parks. In the winter, Wood Ducks, aka "woodies", often group
together to search for food and shelter. In the spring, males and
females will pair up and start nesting activities.
Nests are located no more than a mile from water and
are usually placed in tree cavities about 20 to 30 feet above the
ground or water surface. Since Wood Ducks cannot excavate their own
nesting cavities, they often use old woodpecker holes. Females will
then use a combination of debris in the nest cavity as well as down
feathers for nesting material. Wood Ducks nest from April to June
and lay 9-12 eggs. In areas where nests are really close to each
other, females will sometimes participate in “intraspecfic brood
competition”. This term means that they will lay their eggs in the
nests of other females, leaving the other ladies to raise their
young for them. Some nests can then have as many as 29 eggs due to
In about a month, the eggs will hatch and, within 24
hours, the little ducklings will use their sharp claws to climb out
of the nest entrance and fall to the ground or water. Once on the
ground, females will lead the ducklings to the nearest body of
water. They will not come back to the nest. Wood Duck young can fly
about 60 days from hatching. Until that time, their mother looks
after them and protects them from harm.
What Do Wood Ducks Eat?
Wood Ducks are dabbling ducks which eat a variety of
foods including duckweed, sedge seeds and tubers, grasses,
smartweed, wild rice, nuts, fruits, insects and small aquatic
animals. Typically, plants make up to 80% of a Wood Duck’s diet. By
having the right habitat for Wood Ducks and by providing duck nest
boxes, you may attract these beautiful birds without ever having to
Wood Duck Nest Box
In the early 1900's, loss of mature and dying trees
with nesting hollows led to a dramatic decline in Wood Duck
populations. When federal and state governments and local wildlife
enthusiasts began erecting Wood Duck nest boxes, the birds made a
miraculous comeback. If you have a wooded stream or pond on your
property or live along a Chesapeake Bay shore with woods nearby,
then you may be able to attract Wood Ducks by leaving snags on your
property and/or by erecting a Wood Duck nest box.
The Maryland Wood Duck
Initiative (MWDI) is a non-profit volunteer group which partners
with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. MWDI seeks to
enhance Wood Duck populations and their habitats throughout
Maryland. They have very detailed
nest box plans as well as
best management practices available on their website.
Since its inception in 2004, thousands of nest boxes and predator
guards have been installed on public properties which have provided
nesting habitat for thousands of Wood Ducks.
Invite Wildlife to Your Backyard!
For Additional Information, Contact:
Wildlife and Heritage Service
580 Taylor Ave, E-1
Annapolis, MD 21401
- Male Wood Duck, photo by Mike Sweet, USFWS
- Ducklings, photo by Stephen Durrenberger
- Male Wood Duck, by Maslowsky Photo, USFWS