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Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)

Habitat Requirements


Wood ducks nest in woodland areas along lakes, rivers, and vegetated wetland areas. During the winter months, wood ducks inhabit bottomland hardwood wetlands, beaver ponds and flowages, river oxbows, meanders and backwaters, and other inland freshwater forested wetland areas. Habitat areas chosen by wood ducks are commonly used by other waterfowl species such as black ducks, hooded mergansers, and ring-necked ducks. High-quality wood duck habitat is intricately linked to preservation and management of old growth timber along river corridors and availability of nesting sites. Although wood duck populations have recovered, the largest threat to their future is the continued loss of habitat. By protecting and restoring floodplain timber, river oxbows and meanders, and other freshwater wetland and riparian habitats, landowners can assist in the continued success of wood ducks and other migratory waterfowl species that rely on similar habitats.


Food for young birds and adults differs dramatically. The early diet of ducklings consists largely of insects, aquatic invertebrates, small fish, and other high-protein animal material. After six weeks of age, the young switch to plant foods until their diet consists of approximately 90 percent vegetative material, primarily aquatic plants such as algae, watermeal, watershield, sago pondweed, and duckweed. Adult wood ducks feed on a variety of nuts and fruits, aquatic plants and seeds, and aquatic insects and other invertebrates. Insects and aquatic invertebrates are particularly important food items of adult hens during egg laying in spring. Acorns and other forest mast are important fall and winter foods. While acorns are the primary winter foods, the seeds of bald cypress, hickory, sweet gum, buttonbush, arrow-arum, bur-reed, and wild rice are also common winter foods. Wood ducks feed primarily in shallow water areas, but will also forage on the forest floor for seeds, acorns, and nuts.

Important wood duck food plants. The following species are known to be important food items in the diet of wood ducks. Those species in bold print are of particular value for their usefulness as a winter food source.

oak (acorns) hickory (nuts) elm bald cypress beech (nuts) sweet gum ash button bush maple blackgum bur-reed rice cutgrass arrow-arum wild rice sedge smartweeds barnyard grass nightshade cowlily beggarticks duckweed grape St. John's-wort panic grasses bulrush pondweed watershield waterlily

These species may be used to enhance vegetation which already exists in and around woodland areas and aquatic habitats. Adding these species to those currently existing will enhance food availability for wood ducks.
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