Wood Duck

Range Map
Aix sponsa

The male Wood Duck vies as one of the most beautiful creatures on this planet. Another duck with similar credentials, and the only other species in the Aix genus, is the Mandarin Duck.

Wood Duck feet have claw adaptations to help them perch on trees and other woody structures. They nest in hollows of trees, sometimes at substantial elevations. The very young often have to jump from great heights before taking their first steps on terra firma.

Wood Duck populations reached a low point in the early 1900s because of habitat loss. In the 1920s authorities regulated hunting, while thoughtful people began building nest boxes for these birds, and slowly the population rose. Today, their numbers have rebounded well enough that hunting has resumed.

Most of eastern half of the USA hosts Wood Ducks year round, as does much of the West Coast, the Pacific Northwest, and Cuba. In summer, some of their population migrates north as far as southern Canada. Southwestern USA, the southern Rocky Mountain states, and northern and central Mexico host non-breeding birds.

Despite their fragmented range, today’s science does not recognise any subspecies (i.e. they are monotypic).

Wherever I encounter these birds, I’m compelled to take pictures. The drakes are so beautiful, who can blame me? Several small lakes in San Diego County have provided me with lovely encounters with these ducks, but I’ve also had a lot of fun with them in Albuquerque (New Mexico).

Click map markers to reveal further information