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Wild Woman: Wood Ducks

Kirsten Bartlow from the Arkansas Game & Fish Commission talks about Arkansas waterfowl.
Mother (larger bird in center) wood duck and young wood ducks.
Mother (larger bird in center) wood duck and young wood ducks.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Wood ducks live in Arkansas year-round. 

Males are iridescent chestnut and green, with ornate patterns on nearly every feather; the elegant females have a distinctive profile and delicate white pattern around the eye. 

Where do I look for wood ducks?
Look for them in wooded swamps, marshes, streams, beaver ponds, and small lakes. They stick to wet areas with trees or extensive cattails. As a cavity nester, wood ducks take readily to nest boxes. They are one of the few duck species equipped with strong claws that can grip bark and perch on branches. 

How do they behave?
Unlike most waterfowl, wood ducks perch and nest in trees and are comfortable flying through woods. Their broad tail and short, broad wings help make them maneuverable. When swimming, the head jerks back and forth much as a walking pigeon's does. You often see wood ducks in small groups (fewer than 20), keeping apart from other waterfowl. Listen for the female's call when these wary birds flush. Courting males swim before a female with wings and tail elevated, sometimes tilting the head backwards for a few seconds. Males may also perform ritualized drinking, preening, and shaking movements. 

What do they eat?
Wood ducks eat seeds, fruits, insects and other arthropods. When aquatic foods are unavailable they may take to dry land to eat acorns and other nuts from forests and grain from fields. Wood ducks feed by dabbling or short, shallow dives. 

Fun Facts: 
  • Egg-dumping is common in wood ducks.Females visit other wood duck cavities,lay eggs in them, and leave them to be raised by the other female. In some areas it happens in more than half of all nests. 
  • Individual females typically lay 10-11 eggs per clutch, but some very full nests have been found containing 29 eggs, the result of egg-dumping. 
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