My adventures in the woods, streams, rivers, fields, and lakes of Michigan

Wood Duck, Aix sponsa

Note: this post, while published, is a work in progress, as are all posts in this series, My Photo Life List. My goal is to photograph every species of bird that is seen on a regular basis here in Michigan, working from a list compiled by the Michigan chapter of the Audubon Society. This will be a lifelong project, that I began in January of 2013, and as I shoot better photos of this, or any other species, I will update the post for that species with better photos when I can. While this series is not intended to be a field guide per se, my minimum standard for the photos in this series is that one has to be able to make a positive identification of the species in my photos. The information posted here is from either my observations or the Wikipedia, the online free encyclopedia, however, I have personally shot all the photos appearing in this series.

Wood Duck, Aix sponsa

The wood duck is a medium-sized perching duck. A typical adult is from 47 to 54 cm (19 to 21 in) in length with a wingspan of between 66 to 73 cm (26 to 29 in). This is about three-quarters of the length of an adult mallard. It shares its genus with the Asian Mandarin duck.

The adult male has distinctive multicolored iridescent plumage and red eyes,with a distinctive white flare down the neck. The female, less colorful, has a white eye-ring and a whitish throat. Both adults have crested heads.

The male’s call is a rising whistle, jeeeeee; the females utter a drawn-out, rising squeal, do weep do weep, when flushed, and a sharp cr-r-ek, cr-e-ek for an alarm call.

Their breeding habitat is wooded swamps, shallow lakes, marshes or ponds, and creeks in eastern North America, the west coast of the United States and western Mexico. They usually nest in cavities in trees close to water, although they will take advantage of nesting boxes in wetland locations if available. Females line their nests with feathers and other soft materials, and the elevation provides some protection from predators. Unlike most other ducks, the wood duck has sharp claws for perching in trees and can, in southern regions, produce two broods in a single season—the only North American duck that can do so.

Females typically lay between 7 and 15 white-tan eggs that incubate for an average of 30 days. However, if nesting boxes are placed too close together, females may lay eggs in the nests of their neighbours, which may lead to nests which may contain as many as 30 eggs and unsuccessful incubation, a behaviour known as “nest dumping”.

After hatching, the ducklings jump down from the nest tree and make their way to water. The mother calls them to her, but does not help them in any way. They prefer nesting over water so the young have a soft landing, but will nest up to 140 m (460 ft) away from the shoreline. The day after they hatch, the young climb to the nest entrance and jump to the ground. The ducklings can swim and find their own food by this time.

These birds feed by dabbling or walking on land. They mainly eat berries, acorns, and seeds, but also insects, making them omnivores.

On to my photos:

As you’ll be seeing many of my recent wood duck photos, I went back to the best that I had saved in the past for a few of these.

Wood Duck, Aix sponsa

Wood Duck, Aix sponsa

Wood Duck, Aix sponsa

Wood Duck, Aix spoons

Wood duck

Wood duck

Wood duck, post-processed in Lightroom

Wood duck, post-processed in Lightroom

Wood Duck, Aix sponsa

Wood Duck, Aix sponsa

Wood Duck, Aix sponsa

Wood Duck, Aix sponsa

This is number 179 in my photo life list, only 171 to go!

That’s it for this one, thanks for stopping by!



17 responses

  1. What you call a “wood duck” is much more colourful than what we have here. I had a male and female in one picture in my recent blog. Our wood ducks also lay eggs in tree nests. It’s surprisingly how high they can be sometimes! I am surprised the babies don’t get injured when they land/fall. I guess they are quite light and covered in soft feathers. Do yours pretend they have an injured wing to lure predators away? Your male wood duck is pretty fancy! Fabulous shots.

    March 30, 2015 at 2:21 am

    • Thank you Jane! The young ducks are like puff balls, so light that they’re not injured when they jump from the nest. I’ve never seen the wood ducks do the injured wing trick, but have seen other species try it.

      April 3, 2015 at 8:09 am

  2. Excellent pictures of a strikingly coloured bird.

    March 30, 2015 at 3:11 am

    • Thank you Susan!

      April 3, 2015 at 8:09 am

  3. It’s nice to see something besides their tail feathers. Great shots!

    March 30, 2015 at 7:09 am

    • Thanks Allen! That was a great way of putting it, as most of the time tail feathers are all I ever see of wood ducks.

      April 3, 2015 at 8:10 am

  4. Love those wood ducks! I have yet to actually see one…..

    You do an excellent job photographing waterfowl, Jerry. It’s a treat to see your work.

    March 30, 2015 at 9:12 am

    • Thanks Judy! For years I have tried for great shots of wood ducks, they are very wary birds that easily hide despite their brilliant colors. I have heard that there are a few that are fairly tame at the ponds of John Ball Zoo, but can’t verify that. They are a treat to see up close.

      April 3, 2015 at 8:12 am

  5. Great pix! The wood duck may be our most beautiful duck…but don’t tell mine, that, ok? 😉

    March 30, 2015 at 10:24 am

    • Thanks Lori! Don’t worry, the wood ducks will remain a secret to your ducks, but there’s one even more colorful duck left for me to find and photograph.

      April 3, 2015 at 8:13 am

  6. Have you ever seen wood ducks and their ducklings?
    These ducks are so colourful and the female has lovely eyes.

    March 30, 2015 at 3:00 pm

    • Thank you Cornel! I have seen wood duck families in the past, but never when I had a camera with me or they were too far away for good photos.

      April 3, 2015 at 8:16 am

  7. Beautiful shots, Jerry. I was thinking when you posted the shots of the Wood Duck the other day that it looked like a Mandarin. I now know I wasn’t mistaken. Thanks for a fascinating post.

    March 30, 2015 at 6:22 pm

    • Thank you Clare! Now that I have managed a few good photos, I’ll be able to get more in the future.

      April 3, 2015 at 8:17 am

  8. Great photos of the wood duck, Jerry. Thank you. Eight wood ducks landed on our pond one rainy May Saturday, and we were delighted. Our guests from the city stopped talking, and we could not pull them away from the windows, as they marveled at these ducks with their distinct markings.

    April 3, 2015 at 8:05 am

    • Thank you Cynthia! How lucky you all were to get to observe those ducks close up, they are usually hard to spot.

      April 3, 2015 at 8:18 am

      • We kept hoping they would return. they likely did, but I never saw them again.

        April 3, 2015 at 8:44 am