Overview

Brief Summary

Aix sponsa

The male Wood Duck in breeding plumage is arguably the most colorful duck in North America. Adorned with an iridescent-green head and crest, red bill, rust-colored breast and buff flanks, it is unmistakable anywhere on the continent. However, this is not always the case. Non-breeding males lose their bright colors and become drab brown-gray, resembling female and juvenile Wood Ducks. This is a medium-sized duck species (17-20 inches) which is slightly smaller than the more familiar Mallard. This species breeds across much of North America, especially in the east. In the west, the Wood Duck breeds more locally, but may be encountered on the Pacific coast of California and in the northwest. Many Wood Ducks in the east are permanent residents, but populations breeding in Canada migrate short distances south into the U.S. In the west, Wood Ducks are more migratory, moving into the southern plains and parts of the southwest in winter. This species may be found at all times of the year on wetlands, lakes, and streams. Wood Ducks nest in tree cavities (often old Pileated Woodpecker nest holes), and pairs of this species must breed in wetlands near forests to ensure availability of nest sites. The Wood Duck eats a wide variety of foods, including insects, seeds, fruits, and aquatic plant matter. Wood Ducks are often found floating on the water’s surface, occasionally dabbling (submerging their head and chest while their legs and tail stick out of the water) to find food. These ducks are also capable of taking off directly from the water. They may also be found on land, where they may be observed walking, or in the air, where they may be observed making swift and direct flights through the tree canopy. Wood Ducks are most active during the day.

Threat Status: Least Concern

  • Aix sponsa. Xeno-canto. Xeno-canto Foundation, n.d. Web. 20 July 2012. .
  • American Wood Duck (Aix sponsa). The Internet Bird Collection. Lynx Edicions, n.d. Web. 20 July 2012. .
  • Hepp, Gary R. and Frank C. Bellrose. 1995. Wood Duck (Aix sponsa), The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America Online: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/species/169
  • Peterson, Roger Tory. Birds of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980. Print.
  • eBird Range Map - Wood Duck. eBird. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, N.d. Web. 20 July 2012. .
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Distribution

Aix sponsa is found on the east coast of North America from Nova Scotia in the north, to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico in the south, and west to the center of the United States. Birds in the eastern part of the range migrate southeast in the winter. Wood ducks are also found from British Columbia to the Mexican border on the west coast. They spend the winter in southern California and the Mexican Pacific coast. Wood ducks in the southern part of the range do not migrate.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Global Range: (>2,500,000 square km (greater than 1,000,000 square miles)) BREEDS: southern British Columbia and Alberta south to central California, northern Nevada, Idaho, and western Montana, with small number farther south to Arizona and New Mexico; also throughout most of the central and eastern U.S. and adjacent southern Canada, from Montana, Manitoba, the Great Lakes region, southern Quebec, and Nova Scotia south to Texas, the Gulf coast, and Florida, east to the Atlantic coast, west to Wyoming and Colorado; Cuba. The highest breeding densities occur in the Mississippi alluvial valley (Dugger and Fredrickson 1992). In recent decades, the breeding range expanded westward into the Great Plains region after wooded riparian corridors developed (Dugger and Fedrickson 1992). WINTERS: mostly on Pacific coast and interior California, and north to Kansas, southern Iowa, Ohio Valley, New England. The highest winter densities occur in the southern states of the Mississippii and Atlantic flyways and in California's Central Valley (Dugger and Fredrickson 1992).

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along eastern North America, from near the southern tip of Florida to northern Nova Scotia then west across Quebec and Ontario to the southern tip of Texas
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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along eastern North America, from near the southern tip of Florida to northern Nova Scotia then west across Quebec and Ontario to the southern tip of Texas
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occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Geographic Range

Aix sponsa is found on the east coast of North America from Nova Scotia in the north, to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico in the south, and west to the center of the United States. Birds in the eastern part of the range migrate southeast in the winter. Wood ducks are also found from British Columbia to the Mexican border on the west coast. They spend the winter in southern California and the Mexican Pacific coast. Wood ducks in the southern part of the range do not migrate.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

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Range

Inland waters of Canada to n Mexico, Cuba and Bahamas.
  • Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2014. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: Version 6.9. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/

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The wood duck's breeding range includes most of the states and the
southern portions of the provinces of North America. Populations are
scarce in the western interior states, especially Utah, Arizona, and New
Mexico [5]. Breeding densities are highest in the Mississippi River
valleys [2,5]. In winter, wood ducks are found on the West Coast from
southern British Columbia to southern California, and on the eastern
coasts from southern New Jersey to southern Florida and west to
central Texas. Winter densities are high in California's Central Valley
and the southern states of the Mississippi and Atlantic flyways [5].

The Atlantic population is distributed throughout the Atlantic Flyway
states and in southeastern Canada. The Interior population is found on
the Mississippi Flyway, parts of Ontario, and the eastern tier of states
in the Central Flyway. The Pacific population is distributed from
British Columbia south to California and east to western Montana [5].

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Regional Distribution in the Western United States

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This species can be found in the following regions of the western United States (according to the Bureau of Land Management classification of Physiographic Regions of the western United States):

1 Northern Pacific Border
2 Cascade Mountains
3 Southern Pacific Border
4 Sierra Mountains
5 Columbia Plateau
8 Northern Rocky Mountains
9 Middle Rocky Mountains
14 Great Plains
16 Upper Missouri Basin and Broken Lands

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Occurrence in North America

AL AZ AR CA CO CT DE GA
ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA
MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NJ NM
NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD
TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY


AB BC MB NB NS ON PE PQ
SK YT



MEXICO

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Physical Description

Morphology

Wood ducks are small to medium sized birds. Both male and female adults have a crest on their head, a rectangular shaped tail, white bellies and white lines on the back of the wings. Males are 48 to 54 cm long, while females are 47 to 51 cm long. Their wingspans are 70 to 73 cm long and they weigh between 500 and 700 g. The sexes are dimorphic. The males' heads are iridescent green, blue and purple and have two white lines that are parallel and run from the base of the bill and behind the eye to the back of the head. Male wood ducks also have red eyes, red at the base of the bill, rust-colored chests, bronze sides and black backs and tails. The females are brownish to gray and have white eye rings, white throats and gray chests. Juvenile wood ducks resemble adult females. Wood ducks are sometimes mistaken for American widgeons (Anas americana) when flying because the white lines that wood ducks have at the back of their wings are not visible. Also female wood ducks are mistaken for female Mandarin ducks (Aix galericulata). The difference lies in the Mandarin duck's lighter gray head and less distinctive eye patch.

Range mass: 635 to 681 g.

Average mass: 600 g.

Range length: 47 to 54 cm.

Range wingspan: 70 to 73 cm.

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; sexes colored or patterned differently; male more colorful

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Average basal metabolic rate: 2.247 W.

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Physical Description

Wood ducks are small to medium sized birds. Both male and female adults have a crest on their head, a rectangular shaped tail, white bellies and white lines on the back of the wings. Males are 48 to 54 cm long, while females are 47 to 51 cm long. Their wingspans are 70 to 73 cm long and they weigh between 500 and 700 g. The sexes are dimorphic. The males' heads are iridescent green, blue and purple and have two white lines that are parallel and run from the base of the bill and behind the eye to the back of the head. Male wood ducks also have red eyes, red at the base of the bill, rust-colored chests, bronze sides and black backs and tails. The females are brownish to gray and have white eye rings, white throats and gray chests. Juvenile wood ducks resemble adult females. Wood ducks are sometimes mistaken for American widgeons (Anas americana) when flying because the white lines that wood ducks have at the back of their wings are not visible. Also female wood ducks are mistaken for female Mandarin ducks (Aix galericulata). The difference lies in the Mandarin duck's lighter gray head and less distinctive eye patch.

Range mass: 635 to 681 g.

Average mass: 600 g.

Range length: 47 to 54 cm.

Range wingspan: 70 to 73 cm.

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger; sexes colored or patterned differently; male more colorful

Average basal metabolic rate: 2.247 W.

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Size

Length: 47 cm

Weight: 681 grams

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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Systems
  • Terrestrial
  • Freshwater
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wooded swamps and river bottomlands
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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wooded swamps and river bottomlands
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Wood ducks occupy a wide variety of habitats including woodland areas along lakes, rivers, creeks, beaver and farm ponds and various other freshwater vegetated wetland areas. Because wood ducks are cavity nesters, the availability of nesting sites within one mile of water is necessary. Winter habitats are the same as those used during breeding.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp

Other Habitat Features: agricultural ; riparian

  • Hepp, G., F. Bellrose. 1995. The Birds of North America. Philadelphia, PA: The American Ornithologist' Union and The Academy of Natural Sciences.
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Comments: Quiet inland waters near woodland, such as wooded swamps, flooded forest, greentree reservoirs, ponds, marshes, and along streams. Winters on both freshwater and brackish marshes, ponds, streams, and estuaries (AOU 1983, Dugger and Fredrickson 1992).

Nests in holes in large trees in forested wetlands, and in bird boxes, usually within 0.5 km of water and near forest canopy openings, sometimes 1 km or more from water. Prefers cavities with an entrance size of at least 9 cm, an interior basal area of at least 258 sq cm, and a height of 2 m or more above ground (Dugger and Fredrickson 1992). Elms and maples are important habitat components in most areas because they provide protein-rich samaras in spring and suitable nest cavities. Often returns to same nesting area, sometimes same nest box, in successive years. If nest destroyed, moves to new site to renest. After young leave nest, female may led them up to several km to suitable habitat (food and cover). Shallowly flooded habitat with good understory cover is important cover for broods. Commonly lays eggs in nests of conspecifics.

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Wood ducks occupy a wide variety of habitats including woodland areas along lakes, rivers, creeks, beaver and farm ponds and various other freshwater vegetated wetland areas. Because wood ducks are cavity nesters, the availability of nesting sites within one mile of water is necessary. Winter habitats are the same as those used during breeding.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Aquatic Biomes: lakes and ponds; rivers and streams

Wetlands: marsh ; swamp

Other Habitat Features: agricultural ; riparian

  • Hepp, G., F. Bellrose. 1995. The Birds of North America. Philadelphia, PA: The American Ornithologist' Union and The Academy of Natural Sciences.
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Cover Requirements

More info for the terms: cover, shrubs

Wood ducks prefer sites with nest cavities within 0.3 miles (0.5 km) of
water, but will nest more than 0.6 miles (1 km) from cover if necessary.
Nest cavity trees must have a d.b.h. of greater than 12 inches (30 cm).
The nest entrance hole should be at least 6 feet (2 m) above ground, and
greater than 3.5 inches (8.9 cm) in diameter. The interior basal area
should be greater than 40 inches squared (258 cm sq) [5].

Water depths are important in brooding and breeding habitat from
mid-April to late September in the North and mid-January to late
September in the South. In breeding habitat, depth should be 3 to 18
inches (7.5-45 cm), and banks should be sheltered with shrubs. In
brooding habitat, chicks need a water depth of less than 12 inches (30
cm) so they can forage for invertebrates [13].

Ideal cover for wood ducks is provided by shrubs that hang in a dense
canopy about 2 feet (6 m) above the water surface. Downed timber can
provide year-round cover. Habitat consisting of downed timber, woody
and herbaceous plants, and interspersed water channels provides good
brood cover [13]. Optimum cover for brooding consists of 30 to 50
percent shrubs, 40 to 70 percent emergent plants, up to 10 percent
trees, and 25 percent open water [13].

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Preferred Habitat

More info for the terms: hardwood, shrub

Wood ducks prefer wooded wetlands and forests with small lakes, ponds,
or riparian corridors, and flooded forested bottomlands. They nest in
tree cavities or man-made boxes, usually within 0.6 miles (1 km) from
water [5]. They prefer riparian areas with a large amount of shoreline
per unit area of water, and with the opposite shore at least 100 feet
(30 km) away [13]. In the Mississippi River valleys, chicks prefer water
sites where currents are less than 1 mile per hour (1.6 km/h). Chicks
less than 2 weeks old use flooded lowland forests, while older chicks
use shrub communities [13]. Breeding and brooding hens prefer sites
with ratios of 50 to 75 percent cover:25 to 50 percent open water.
Detailed habitat suitability index models have been developed for wood
ducks [13].

Wood duck preference for trees used for cavity nesting have been listed
in order of descending importance. In floodplain forests these are
baldcypress (Taxodium distichum), sycamore (Platanus spp.), silver maple
(Acer saccharinum), black ash (Fraxinus nigra), sourgum (Nyssa spp.),
and black willow (Salix nigra). On upland areas these are black oak
(Quercus velutina), red oak (Q. rubra), white oak (Q. alba), blackjack
oak (Q. marilandica), bur oak (Q. macrocarpa), and basswood (Tilia
americana) [2].

A study in northcentral Minnesota identified 31 wood duck nest cavities
and found that 21 of these were in mature (60-75 years) quaking aspen
(Populus tremuloides) stands, while the rest were in mature (100-120
years) mixed hardwood stands. Nest sites were within 1,150 feet (350 m)
of water, and entrance holes were not less than 12 feet (4 m) above
ground [8].

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Associated Plant Communities

More info for the term: hardwood

Wood ducks inhabit mostly forested wetland communities, such as southern
and central floodplain forests, red maple (Acer rubrum) swamps,
temporarily flooded oak (Quercus spp.)-hickory (Carya spp.) forests,
and northern bottomland hardwood sites [13].

REFERENCES :
NO-ENTRY

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Habitat: Cover Types

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This species is known to occur in association with the following cover types (as classified by the Society of American Foresters):

More info for the term: swamp

1 Jack pine
14 Northern pin oak
15 Red pine
16 Aspen
21 Eastern white pine
25 Sugar maple - beech - yellow birch
26 Sugar maple - basswood
27 Sugar maple
28 Black cherry - maple
39 Black ash - American elm - red maple
40 Post oak - blackjack oak
42 Bur oak
52 White oak - black oak - northern red oak
53 White oak
55 Northern red oak
59 Yellow-poplar - white oak - northern red oak
60 Beech - sugar maple
61 River birch - sycamore
62 Silver maple - American elm
63 Cottonwood
64 Sassafras - persimmon
65 Pin oak - sweetgum
70 Longleaf pine
75 Shortleaf pine
80 Loblolly pine - shortleaf pine
81 Loblolly pine
84 Slash pine
88 Willow oak - water oak - diamondleaf oak
91 Swamp chestnut oak - cherrybark oak
92 Sweetgum - willow oak
93 Sugarberry - American elm - green ash
94 Sycamore - sweetgum - American elm
95 Black willow
96 Overcup oak - water hickory
101 Baldcypress
108 Red maple
110 Black oak
111 South Florida slash pine
210 Interior Douglas-fir
212 Western larch
213 Grand fir
215 Western white pine
217 Aspen
218 Lodgepole pine

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Habitat: Plant Associations

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This species is known to occur in association with the following plant community types (as classified by Küchler 1964):

K005 Mixed conifer forest
K006 Redwood forest
K008 Lodgepole pine - subalpine forest
K011 Western ponderosa forest
K012 Douglas-fir forest
K013 Cedar - hemlock - pine forest
K014 Grand fir - Douglas-fir forest
K015 Western spruce - fir forest
K018 Pine - Douglas-fir forest
K020 Spruce - fir - Douglas-fir forest
K091 Cypress savanna
K092 Everglades
K093 Great Lakes spruce - fir forest
K095 Great Lakes pine forest
K097 Southeastern spruce - fir forest
K098 Northern floodplain forest
K099 Maple - basswood forest
K100 Oak - hickory forest
K101 Elm - ash forest
K102 Beech - maple forest
K103 Mixed mesophytic forest
K104 Appalachian oak forest
K106 Northern hardwoods
K107 Northern hardwoods - fir forest
K108 Northern hardwoods - spruce forest
K110 Northeastern oak - pine forest
K111 Oak - hickory - pine forest
K112 Southern mixed forest
K113 Southern floodplain forest

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Habitat: Ecosystem

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This species is known to occur in the following ecosystem types (as named by the U.S. Forest Service in their Forest and Range Ecosystem [FRES] Type classification):

FRES10 White-red-jack pine
FRES11 Spruce-fir
FRES12 Longleaf-slash pine
FRES13 Loblolly-shortleaf pine
FRES14 Oak-pine
FRES15 Oak-hickory
FRES16 Oak-gum-cypress
FRES17 Elm-ash-cottonwood
FRES18 Maple-beech-birch
FRES19 Aspen-birch
FRES20 Douglas-fir
FRES21 Ponderosa pine
FRES22 Western white pine
FRES25 Larch
FRES26 Lodgepole pine
FRES27 Redwood
FRES28 Western hardwoods

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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

In the southernmost breeding range, populations are essentially nonmigratory. Northern breeding populations migrate south for winter. Southerly fall migration occurs mainly in October-November. Migrants depart south by mid-March, arrive in northern breeding areas by mid-April (Palmer 1976). In the southeastern U.S., migrates farther south in years when spring-summer precipitation is below average and habitat suitability presumably is negatively affected (Hepp and Hines 1991). Migrants may disperse east or west or northward prior to southward fall migration (Dugger and Fredrickson 1992).

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Trophic Strategy

Wood ducks are omnivores. They feed on nuts, fruits, aquatic plants and seeds, aquatic insects and other invertebrates. The majority of their food includes acorns, hickory nuts, maple seeds, smart weeds, Diptera (true flies), Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), Hemiptera (true bugs), Coleoptera (beetles), Isopoda (pillbugs and sowbugs), Decapoda (shrimp, crabs, and relatives), Trichoptera (caddisflies), Hymenoptera (wasps, bees, and ants), Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), and Gastropoda (gastropods, slugs, snails).

Animal Foods: insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; mollusks

Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Primary Diet: omnivore

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Comments: Eats seeds and other parts of aquatic plants; nuts, fruits, and seeds of trees (especially acorns) and shrubs; also aquatic and land insects. Winter diet consist almost entirely of plant material, with acorns often important. Animal foods are an important part of the diet inspring and summer. Young initially eat mainly insects; also duckweed, occasionally frogs (Palmer 1976). Feeds on water and on the ground.

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Food Habits

Wood ducks are omnivores. They feed on nuts, fruits, aquatic plants and seeds, aquatic insects and other invertebrates. The majority of their food includes acorns, hickory nuts, maple seeds, smart weeds, Diptera (true flies), Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths), Hemiptera (true bugs), Coleoptera (beetles), Isopoda (pillbugs and sowbugs), Decapoda (shrimp, crabs, and relatives), Trichoptera (caddisflies), Hymenoptera (wasps, bees, and ants), Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies), and Gastropoda (gastropods, slugs, snails).

Animal Foods: insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; mollusks

Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

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Food Habits

The majority of wood duck food consists of plant material, with a
supplement of invertebrates. During winter almost 100 percent of the
diet is plants, with an increase in animal protein (35 percent) in early
spring [5]. These percentages remain constant for males during the
summer and fall molts, but increase for females to about 80 percent
animal protein during egg laying. This percentage drops for females
during incubation, when their diet includes high-energy seeds. Wood
ducks usually will not forage in agricultural fields as long as their
native food sources are plentiful [13].

Some plant foods of wood ducks include fruits of maples (Acer spp.),
oaks, ash (Franius spp.), sassafras (Sassafras albidum), sweetgum
(Liquidambar styraciflua), baldcypress, water hickory (Carya aquatica),
buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis), Asiatic dayflower (Aneilema
keisak), watershield (Brassenia schreberi), barnyard grass (Echinochloa
spp.), rice cutgrass (Leersia oryzoides), primrose willow (Ludwigia
leptocarpa), white waterlily (Nymphaea odorata), panicum (Panicum spp.),
smartweeds (Polygonum spp.), pondweeds (Potamogeton spp.), water bulrush
(Scirpus subterminalis), and slough grass (Sclera reticularis).
Invertebrate foods include spiders, crayfish, midges, scuds, water
boatmen, sowbugs, damselflies, dragonflies, caddis flies, and orb snails
[5,13].

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Associations

Wood ducks sometimes occupy hooded merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) nests and when hooded merganser eggs are left in the nests, wood ducks incubate the merganser eggs as well as their own. This occurs more frequently early in the season. Wood ducks are also important prey for their predators and act as predators themselves.

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The most common predators of A.sponsa are great horned owls (Bubo virginianus), mink (Genus Mustela), raccoons (Procyon lotor), red foxes (Vulpes vulpes), gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus), alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) and black rat snakes (Pantherophis obsoletus). Female wood ducks have an alarm call that alerts the ducklings of the presence of a predator. The ducklings will search for cover in the water while the mother swims away from them or feigns a broken wing to protect them.

Within the first two weeks of hatching, 86 to 90 percent of the chicks die. A main cause of mortality is predation.

Known Predators:

  • great horned owl (Bubo virginianus)
  • American mink (Neovison vison)
  • raccoons (Procyon lotor)
  • red foxes (Vulpes vulpes)
  • gray foxes (Urocyon cinereoargenteus)
  • alligators (Alligator mississippiensis)
  • black rat snakes (Pantherophis obsoletus)

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Ecosystem Roles

Wood ducks sometimes occupy hooded merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) nests and when hooded merganser eggs are left in the nests, wood ducks incubate the merganser eggs as well as their own. This occurs more frequently early in the season. Wood ducks are also important prey for their predators and act as predators themselves.

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Predation

The most common predators of A.sponsa are great horned owls (Bubo_virginianus), mink (Genus Mustela), raccoons (Procyon_lotor), red foxes (Vulpes_vulpes), gray foxes (Urocyon_cinereoargenteus), alligators (Alligator_mississippiensis) and black rat snakes (Elaphe_obsoleta). Female wood ducks have an alarm call that alerts the ducklings of the presence of a predator. The ducklings will search for cover in the water while the mother swims away from them or feigns a broken wing to protect them.

Within the first two weeks of hatching, 86 to 90 percent of the chicks die. A main cause of mortality is predation.

Known Predators:

  • great horned owl (Bubo_virginianus)
  • American mink (Mustela_vison)
  • raccoons (Procyon_lotor)
  • red foxes (Vulpes_vulpes)
  • gray foxes (Urocyon_cinereoargenteus)
  • alligators (Alligator_mississippiensis)
  • black rat snakes (Elaphe_obsoleta)

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Predators

Wood duck predators include humans, mink (Mustela vison), raccoon
(Procyon lotor), fox squirrel (Sciurus niger), bullfrog (Rana
catesbeiana), snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina), largemouth bass
(Micropterus floridanus), crows (Corvidae spp.), and starling (Sturnus
vulgaris) [2,5].

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Known predators

Aix sponsa is prey of:
Mustela
Elaphe obsoleta
Bubo virginianus
Procyon lotor
Vulpes vulpes
Urocyon cinereoargenteus
Alligator mississippiensis

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Known prey organisms

Aix sponsa preys on:
non-insect arthropods
Mollusca
Arthropoda
Insecta

This list may not be complete but is based on published studies.
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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: > 300

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Global Abundance

10,000 to >1,000,000 individuals

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General Ecology

During migration, sometime forms roosting flocks of 100 or more; in winter, smaller groups of less than 30 are more common (Dugger and Fredrickson 1992).

High annual mortality rate (commonly 50% in adults, higher in young of year). Common predators of young include mink, raccoon, snapping turtle, bullfrog, largemouth bass, and other large predatory fishes. Summer home ranges of of fledged broods were 0-12.8 kilometers along a river (Stewart 1958). Home ranges of breeding males in Minnesota averaged 202 ha and those of unpaired males, 526 ha (Gilmer 1971).

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Habitat-related Fire Effects

More info for the terms: cover, mast, root crown, tree

Specific information regarding the effects of fire on wood duck habitat
has not been found. The author concludes that because wood ducks need
forested wetlands for cover and food, fires that substantially remove
overstory, especially that providing nesting cavities and mast, could
harm wood duck populations.

Hydric hammock communities in the South, which support wintering wood
ducks, are not as fire-dependent or adapted as neighboring pine flatwood
communities [15]. Some tree species in these hydric hammock communities
can be damaged by fire, thus becoming susceptible to fungal attack and
decay.

Red oak swamps are important for wintering wood ducks. Red oak is more
susceptible to fire than many other oak species (see FEIS DATABASE:
Quercus rubra). Severe fire may kill seedlings and sawtimber-sized red
oak; however, larger red oak sprout from the root crown and/or trunk
following such fire.

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Timing of Major Life History Events

Courting- before fall migration and again in spring
Age of Maturity- 1 year
Nesting- late January (South); early March (Midwest); March-April (North)
Clutch- 7 to 15 eggs; average 12; some females deposit eggs in
another female's nest (called "dumping")
Incubation- 26 to 37 days
Fledging- 56 to 70 days
Migration- some southern residents are year-round; northern populations
head south in late September and north in late February [5]

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Diet

eat the seeds of the trees in flooded timber or wooded swamps, occasionally feed in fields, eating various grains
  • North-West Atlantic Ocean species (NWARMS)
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Diet

eat the seeds of the trees in flooded timber or wooded swamps, occasionally feed in fields, eating various grains
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Adult wood ducks have 12 calls, ducklings have 5. Most adult calls are used as warning calls and to attract mates. Both males and females have pre-flight calls. Females have calls that they use to locate their mate and to call their ducklings. Ducklings, who produce calls 2 to 3 days after hatching, have alarm, contact and threatening calls. By three months of age ducklings begin making some adult calls.

Wood ducks also have several courtship displays, such as the wing-and-tail-flash and mutual preening. In addition, they will display during agonistic interactions.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

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Communication and Perception

Adult wood ducks have 12 calls, ducklings have 5. Most adult calls are used as warning calls and to attract mates. Both males and females have pre-flight calls. Females have calls that they use to locate their mate and to call their ducklings. Ducklings, who produce calls 2 to 3 days after hatching, have alarm, contact and threatening calls. By three months of age ducklings begin making some adult calls.

Wood ducks also have several courtship displays, such as the wing-and-tail-flash and mutual preening. In addition, they will display during agonistic interactions.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic

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Cyclicity

Comments: Peaks in feeding activity in morning and afternoon (Palmer 1976).

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Life Expectancy

The average lifespan of A. sponsa is three or four years. The maximum recorded lifespan in the wild is roughly 15 years. Within the first two weeks after hatching 86 to 90% of the chicks die. One cause of mortality is predation. Hunting also accounts for some mortality, however, hunting pressures are not enough to endanger the species.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
15 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
270 months.

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Lifespan/Longevity

The average lifespan of A._sponsa is three or four years. The maximum recorded lifespan in the wild is roughly 15 years. Within the first two weeks after hatching 86 to 90% of the chicks die. One cause of mortality is predation. Hunting also accounts for some mortality, however, hunting pressures are not enough to endanger the species.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
15 (high) years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
270 months.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 22.5 years (wild)
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Reproduction

Aix sponsa shows courtship behaviors in the fall and again in the spring. Male wood ducks are serially monogamous (they stay with one female for one breeding season but mate with a different female the next year). Males use their colorful plumage to attract females. Females use a loud penetrating call to attract males. Wood ducks have several courtship displays, such as the wing-and-tail-flash and mutual preening. During the wing-and-tail-flash male wood ducks raise their wings and tails rapidly, showing their broadsides to the female. Mutual preening involves both sexes nibbling at the head and neck of their mate. After mating, the males migrate to a separate location to molt.

Mating System: monogamous

Aix sponsa breeds in February and early March in the south and mid-March to mid April in the northern areas. In southern areas it is common for wood ducks to produce two broods in one breeding season. Copulation occurs in the water, the male mounts the female from behind and grabs her nape with his bill. Nests are built in cavities and are lined with wood chips and down. Females lay 6 to 15 eggs. It is not uncommon for a nest to have more than 15 eggs because at times other females will lay their eggs in the nests (a behavior called egg-dumping). Eggs are incubated for about 30 days and the chicks leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching. Chicks reach independence in 56 to 70 days and reach sexual maturity in one year.

Breeding interval: In southern areas it is common for wood ducks to produce two broods in one breeding season.

Breeding season: Breeding occurs in February and early March in the south and mid-March to mid April in the northern areas.

Range eggs per season: 6 to 15.

Average time to hatching: 30 days.

Range time to independence: 56 to 70 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; oviparous

Average time to hatching: 31 days.

Average eggs per season: 12.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)

Sex: male:
365 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
365 days.

Female wood ducks incubate their eggs for approximately 30 days. Ducklings hatch 6 to 18 hours after the first crack appears in their shells. They are precocial and leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching (the mother calls the ducklings out of the nest). The female makes sure that there are no predators in the area before the ducklings leave the nest. Once out of the nest, the ducklings scatter in search of food. The chicks become independent from their mothers after 56 to 70 days of care. Males do not care for the young.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; precocial ; pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Protecting: Female)

  • Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, D. Wheye. 1988. The Birder's Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  • Hepp, G., F. Bellrose. 1995. The Birds of North America. Philadelphia, PA: The American Ornithologist' Union and The Academy of Natural Sciences.
  • The Georgia Museum of Natural History and Georgia Department of Natural Resources. 2000. "Wood Duck, Aix sponsa" (On-line). Accessed March 29, 2003 at http://museum.nhm.uga.edu/gawildlife/birds/anseriformes/asponsa.html.
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Upon arrival in breeding areas, migratory females forage intensively and built up nutrient reserves prior to nesting. Nests are initiated as early as late January in the south, early March in the Midwest, and mid-March to early April in the north. Clutch size is 9-15 (usually 10-12), but more than one female may contribute eggs to a nest, resulting in nests with many more eggs (commonly up to 30 for successful nests in nest boxes). Often two broods per year are raised in the south, occasionally in the north. Incubation lasts 27-37 days, by female. Females with broods commonly move a kilometer or more from the nest site soon after hatching. Most juvenile mortality occurs during the first few weeks after hatching. Young first fly at about 9 weeks, abandoned by parent at 1-2 months. Yearlings may breed but often unsuccessfully or not at all. Most of the above information is from Dugger and Fredrickson 1992).

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Aix sponsa shows courtship behaviors in the fall and again in the spring. Male wood ducks are serially monogamous (they stay with one female for one breeding season but mate with a different female the next year). Males use their colorful plumage to attract females. Females use a loud penetrating call to attract males. Wood ducks have several courtship displays, such as the wing-and-tail-flash and mutual preening. During the wing-and-tail-flash male wood ducks raise their wings and tails rapidly, showing their broadsides to the female. Mutual preening involves both sexes nibbling at the head and neck of their mate. After mating, the males migrate to a separate location to molt.

Mating System: monogamous

Aix_sponsa breeds in February and early March in the south and mid-March to mid April in the northern areas. In southern areas it is common for wood ducks to produce two broods in one breeding season. Copulation occurs in the water, the male mounts the female from behind and grabs her nape with his bill. Nests are built in cavities and are lined with wood chips and down. Females lay 6 to 15 eggs. It is not uncommon for a nest to have more than 15 eggs because at times other females will lay their eggs in the nests (a behavior called egg-dumping). Eggs are incubated for about 30 days and the chicks leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching. Chicks reach independence in 56 to 70 days and reach sexual maturity in one year.

Breeding interval: In southern areas it is common for wood ducks to produce two broods in one breeding season.

Breeding season: Breeding occurs in February and early March in the south and mid-March to mid April in the northern areas.

Range eggs per season: 6 to 15.

Average time to hatching: 30 days.

Range time to independence: 56 to 70 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 1 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 1 years.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); fertilization

Average time to hatching: 31 days.

Average eggs per season: 12.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)

Sex: male:
365 days.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
365 days.

Female wood ducks incubate their eggs for approximately 30 days. Ducklings hatch 6 to 18 hours after the first crack appears in their shells. They are precocial and leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching (the mother calls the ducklings out of the nest). The female makes sure that there are no predators in the area before the ducklings leave the nest. Once out of the nest, the ducklings scatter in search of food. The chicks become independent from their mothers after 56 to 70 days of care. Males do not care for the young.

Parental Investment: no parental involvement; precocial ; pre-hatching/birth (Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Protecting: Female)

  • Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, D. Wheye. 1988. The Birder's Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  • Hepp, G., F. Bellrose. 1995. The Birds of North America. Philadelphia, PA: The American Ornithologist' Union and The Academy of Natural Sciences.
  • The Georgia Museum of Natural History and Georgia Department of Natural Resources. 2000. "Wood Duck, Aix sponsa" (On-line). Accessed March 29, 2003 at http://museum.nhm.uga.edu/gawildlife/birds/anseriformes/asponsa.html.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Aix sponsa

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 9 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

NNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNTAATTGGCACAGCACTCAGCCTGCTAATCCGCGCTGAACTAGGCCAGCCAGGAACCCTCCTAGGTGATGACCAAATTTATAACGTAATCGTCACCGCCCACGCCTTTGTAATAATCTTCTTCATGGTGATACCCATCATAATTGGAGGATTCGGCAACTGATTAGTCCCCCTAATAATTGGCGCCCCCGACATGGCATTCCCACGAATAAACAACATAAGCTTTTGACTCCTCCCACCCTCATTCCTTCTACTACTCGCCTCATCTACCGTAGAAGCCGGCGCCGGTACAGGCTGAACCGTGTACCCACCCCTAGCGGGCAACCTGGCCCATGCTGGGGCTTCAGTGGACCTAGCCATCTTCTCCCTCCACTTGGCCGGTATTTCCTCCATCCTCGGGGCCATTAATTTCATCACTACGGCCATCAACATAAAACCCCCCGCACTCTCACAATACCAAACCCCGCTTTTCGTCTGATCTGTCCTAATTACCGCTATCCTGCTCCTCCTGTCCCTTCCCGTCCTTGCTGCCGGCATTACAATGCTACTAACCGACCGAAACCTAAACACCACATTTTTCGATCCCGCTGGAGGAGGAGACCCAATCCTGTACCAACACCTATTCTGATTCTTCGGCCACCCAGAAGTCTACATCCTAATCCTN
-- end --

Download FASTA File

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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Aix sponsa

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 10
Specimens with Barcodes: 10
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2012

Assessor/s
BirdLife International

Reviewer/s
Butchart, S. & Symes, A.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

History
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Least Concern (LC)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
  • Lower Risk/least concern (LR/lc)
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