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Wood Duck

Aix sponsa

Length: 18 inches Wingspan: 28 to 30 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Male unmistakable, female dull with white eyepatch and white chin

Wood Duck - Aix sponsaWood Ducks are probably the most colorful duck found in the state. Unlike most duck species, they nest in trees.  With heavy hunting pressure in the 19th century, and habitat destruction that decimated available nesting cavities, numbers plummeted by the early 20th century and Wood Ducks populations were in danger. They have been increasing in numbers in recent decades, helped greatly due to the huge numbers of nest boxes built especially for them.  They are more common in the eastern half of the state. 


Shallow lakes, ponds, marshes surrounded by trees.  Requires cavities for nesting


Mostly vegetable matter such as aquatic plants and seeds, also tadpoles, insects, and snails. 


Forages in the water by swimming on the surface, and submerging its head and neck in search of food.  Wood Ducks will also forage on land. 


April through June in South Dakota. Wood Ducks are cavity nesters, unable to excavate their own cavity, so reliant on natural tree cavities or those made by other species. They normally select a cavity in a large tree, with the cavity anywhere from 3 to more than 50 feet from the ground. While the nesting site is often close to water, it may be up to a mile away from water if that's the only available nesting cavity. The female lines the nesting cavity with down from her own body, and lays between 5 and 15 eggs. Incubation takes between 26 and 35 days. The young leave the nest about a day after hatching and gather their own food, although they are protected and tended by the mother. The young are able to fly about 2 months after hatching.

Wood Ducks have benefited greatly by the placement of specially made nesting boxes, enabling nesting in areas where natural tree cavities have become scarce.


The most commonly heard sound from a wood duck is the alarm call as they flush. That alarm call is a series of multiple, loud, multi-tone calls that rise in pitch. Males also have a much more subtle whistling call.


Winters in the southeastern United States, the Pacific Coast, and Mexico.

Interactive eBird map:

Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Wood Duck sightings

Similar Species:

Female similar to other female ducks


Will use nest boxes built for Wood Ducks.

Conservation Status:

In decline at the start of the 20th century, they've expanded in numbers and range, in large part due to the numbers of nest boxes created. They're common in many parts of their range, and are found over a broad geographic area. The IUCN considers the Wood Duck to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

Photo Information:

November 15th, 2020 -- Yankton, South Dakota -- Terry L. Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Wood Duck photos. Note that many of the photos below include an odd couple from Yankton, South Dakota, in the late fall of 2020, when a Mandarin Duck and Wood Duck drake were found hanging out together for several weeks.

Audio File Credits:


Click on the range map for a higher-resolution view
Wood Duck - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common summer resident in the eastern part of the state, uncommon in the west.  Rare in winter.

Additional Wood Duck Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Wood Duck 1 - Aix sponsaWood Duck 2 - Aix sponsaWood Duck 3 - Aix sponsaWood Duck 4 - Aix sponsaWood Duck 5 - Aix sponsaWood Duck 6 - Aix sponsa (female)Wood Duck 7 - Aix sponsaWood Duck 8 - Aix sponsaWood Duck 9 - Aix sponsaWood Duck 10 - Aix sponsaWood Duck 11 - Aix sponsaMandarin and Wood Duck 1 - Aix sponsa and Aix galericulataMandarin and Wood Duck 2 - Aix sponsa and Aix galericulataMandarin and Wood Duck 3 - Aix sponsa and Aix galericulataMandarin and Wood Duck 4 - Aix sponsa and Aix galericulataMandarin and Wood Duck 5 - Aix sponsa and Aix galericulataMandarin and Wood Duck 6 - Aix sponsa and Aix galericulataMandarin and Wood Duck 7 - Aix sponsa and Aix galericulataMandarin and Wood Duck 8 - Aix sponsa and Aix galericulataWood Duck 12 - Aix sponsaWood Duck 13 - Aix sponsaWood Duck 14 - Aix sponsaWood Duck 15 - Aix sponsaWood Duck 16 - Aix sponsa