Wood Ducks

Wood Duck, male, Calif.

Wood Duck, male, Calif.

One of America’s most beautiful ducks, Aix sponsa favor wooded shallow lakes, ponds, and slow-moving rivers and creeks.  Equipped with sharp claws for perching in trees, they nest in large tree cavities near water.  They will also utilize nest boxes.  Read more here.


Although the wood duck population was abundant in eastern North America in Audubon’s time (1785-1851), it experienced a serious decline in the late 19th century.  Since then the population has recovered due primarily to two activities:  legal protection and wildlife management.


The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 placed a federal ban on hunting migrating birds from 1918 to 1941.  The ban helped the population recover.


Wood Duck pair, Lindo Lake, Calif. Female in front, male in back

Wood Duck pair, Lindo Lake, Calif. Female in front, male in back

Beyond the federal ban, nest boxes for the wood ducks are another reason for the population’s recovery.  Local communities have been successful in encouraging wood ducks to build nests in nest boxes.  I was witness to this at Lindo Lake in Lakeview, California (San Diego County).


The wood duck was once a rarity in San Diego County.  While visiting a birder friend there, we went to Lindo Lake a few years ago.  We had been out of the car only one minute when we spotted a wood duck, which was very surprising.


Male Wood Duck, Calif.

Male Wood Duck, Calif.

They are not usually easy to find, especially in urban settings.  Within five minutes we had seen a dozen of them!  Then our friend revealed his surprise:  this park was part of a wood duck nesting box program.  It was remarkable to see several dozen pairs.


We are lucky the wood ducks survived extirpation.  And so fortunate now to have a strong community of wildlife conservationists whose only mission is to admire this stunning bird, and truly protect it.


Photo credit:  Athena Alexander


Author’s Note:  Wood ducks are hunted today, and in fact are the second most popular duck to be hunted, second to the mallard.  To discuss waterfowl hunting here is inappropriate, due to the depth and ire of the topic.   I would be remiss, however, if I did not mention that waterfowl conservation and waterfowl hunting are often deceptively advocated by the same powerfully-lobbied international organizations, for e.g. Ducks Unlimited.  Click here to read which organizations oppose hunting wildlife and which ones promote it.



60 thoughts on “Wood Ducks

    • And you’re an educated, informed, and well-traveled person. 90% of Ducks Unlimited’s members are hunters. It is very deceptive. Thanks for your comment, Sue, and I am glad you enjoyed the wood duck photos and info. 🙂

  1. In most cases of almost extinct situations caused by men, the bans and restrictions implemented have worked. Of course we’re not done yet with many cases but it’s matter of keep working on them. The wood duck is a gorgeous bird, I’ve seen them close and they look unreal but beautiful! Thanks Jet! 🙂

    • You’re exactly right, HJ, the work of protecting species is never done. And you’re right about the “unreal” look of wood ducks, too–when you see them close up, all their ornamentation looks like something that can only be painted on a canvas. Thanks so much for your continued support. 😀

  2. The very only time I saw this beauty was in Germany. Thank you so much for sharing the information that go along with your beautiful photos, Jet. 🙂

  3. They look incredibly ravishing,dear Jet!Athena’s photos clearly display the male’s motley plumage with the vibrant iridescent colours!They are similar to the Mandarin ducks.It’s fortunate they managed to save this magnificent species!Thanks for the informative footnote,I can’t believe that there are deceptive organisations claiming the protection of species while they ally with the hunters.Have a great week ahead dear friend 🙂

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the wood ducks today, dear Doda. As for the deceptive organizations, if they told the world their opinion of how wonderful recreational hunting is, they wouldn’t always get a very positive reaction. You, too, have a great week ahead, and thank you, as always, for your wonderful visits. 😀

  4. What gorgeous birds. I never have understood the reasoning behind shooting animals for fun… it seems like a one-sided operation unless the animals are armed too. I looked up Ducks Unlimited and number 4 of their model states “Animals can be killed only for legitimate purposes – for food and fur, in self-defense, or for protection of property.” I eat chicken (free range) that I buy in the supermarket and I’m sure those birds don’t have as good a life as a wild duck… and they still end up dead. There are no black and white answers, that’s for sure!

    • Thanks for stopping by Roslyn, and putting in your two cents. You’re right there is no B&W answer, and yes, hard to understand the reasoning behind shooting animals for fun. Fellow blogger and friend plaidcamper had a good point: hard to imagine duck hunters are shooting in self defense or protecting their property. hmmm. Thank you Roslyn.

  5. What beautiful birds – vivid, almost ornamental. I can’t imagine duck hunters are shooting in self defence, or protecting their property…are there large gangs of armed wood ducks rampaging across the land, breaking and entering?

    • Really appreciated your comment, pc; gave me a good smile, too. I, too, find it hard to imagine duck hunters are shooting in self defense, given a duck’s ankle-high height. Many thanks. 😀

  6. The Mandarin duck was always my favorite water bird coming up as a kid, until I saw a Wood duck with my own eyes a few years back.They are so similar, but this one was in my own yard! Immediately a new favorite.Now every year, when they come back to winter in our creek, I make it a point to sneak up on them when they are working to pair up, when they least notice me and my camera. They are very skittish and fly away lightening fast.

    We should plan for nesting boxes, based on this post, Jet. Too much to do!

      • Fantastic photo, Shannon — such a rarity to see both together. Thanks so much for taking the time to find it. I am now following Trevor too. 😀 😀

    • I just read through the link at the end of your post. Coming from a family of generations of hunters, I broke the ranks when we adopted the vegan ethic, and needless to say I have much opinion on the subject! That link is a great compilation of many of the reasons why today’s hunting methods are both harmful and unnecessary. It is difficult, sometimes, putting information in a blog post that will be ‘upsetting’ to the majority of readers, but education is key to conservation. Thanks for wiggling it in. 😀

      • Thanks so much, Shannon, for your kind words. Originally when I wrote the post I was just going to feature the wood ducks, but in the course of the research I became appalled at how many times Ducks Unltd. came up on the search engine as the world’s biggest waterfowl conservation org. It is very misleading to take credit for being a wildlife conservation org. when they are also fundamentally duck hunters. I hoped to raise awareness of DU’s double identity, and I did…but it has been at an exhausting cost. But you’re right, educ. is the key to conservation, and I do my part when I can. Your recognition of my efforts is humbly appreciated. 😀

  7. Colorful ducks 😀 It is the most beautiful duck I have ever seen too, Jet. That’s too bad people keep hunting them – I won’t discuss it here further but thank you for the awareness 🙂

  8. Wonderful post, Jet. Great information and beautiful shots of this outrageously adorned duck— I’ll never get tired of seeing photos of them. I’m so happy to hear about their comeback. They are a rare sight here in Alberta and we are lucky to have a few in our city. I loved the PBS documentary, “An Original DUCKumentary” (which I’m sure you’ve seen). I had no idea they nested in trees until I saw that documentary. And the footage they got of the little ones jumping out of the tree, well, it was simply amazing. Here’s a link to one of the little ducklings leaping out of the tree, if you’d like to be reminded of it (or if you haven’t seen it): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d3vCUyENpmM Thanks again for another interesting and very informative post. Wishing you a great week ahead. :))

    • Dear Jeannie, thanks so much for your happy comment and link. I have indeed seen the documentary which is spectacular. That leap that the duckling takes is breathtaking, and the slow-mo is superb…a safe landing and the beginning of a new life. It’s great so see the link again, thank you; so life-affirming. I have watched swallows emerge from the nest box and take their first flight, and it is so incredibly exhilarating. Your spark of kindness is much appreciated. 😀

  9. Hmmmmm. Love the beautiful wood ducks. Getting into the conservation vs hunting debate is however best avoided by all but the most confrontational blogger (there’s another difficult area connected with Darwin that’s worth stepping round as well…) RH

  10. The Wood Ducks are fabulous creatures.
    Mallards are the sweetest ducks I’ve ever met.
    As a vegetarian I am constantly saddened by some human’s ongoing disregard for our animal friends. My step father was a so called hunter, and the horrors he brought home are one of the main reasons I refuse to eat meat.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s