Wood Duck

From Ohio History Central


"...the tree duck, builds its nest in hollow trees either hanging over the water or near to it. When the young are hatched, they are thrown into the water and taken elsewhere. The male bird is the most beautiful of the water-fowls and very good to eat."

—David Zeisberger. History of North American Indians, 1779-80.

Scientific Name: Aix sponsa
Habitat: Wooded swamps, rivers and ponds
Adult Weight: 1.1 - 1.9 lbs.
Adult Length: 20 inches, male; 19.5 inches, female
Nesting Period: March - July
Broods Per Year: 1
Clutch Size: 5-16 eggs, 13 average
Life Expectancy: 2 years, average
Foods: Fruits and nuts from beech, oak, and hickory; seeds of aquatic plants; pondweed; and duckweed.


Wood ducks nest in tree cavities or man-made nesting boxes positioned anywhere from 2-65 feet above the ground. The beautifully colored male wood duck ("a waterfowl in a wedding dress") does not help the female in either incubating or raising their young. Female wood ducks have been known to lay their eggs in other wood duck nests.



There were large numbers of wood ducks, or tree ducks, in Ohio at the time of settlement. They were at home in the state's forest wetlands and swamps.

19th Century

Large numbers of wood ducks remained in Ohio through the 1880s.

20th Century

Wood duck populations quickly declined because of over hunting for food and feathers, which were used to make trout fishing fly lures. By 1915, they had disappeared from most counties. The federal government issued a ban on hunting wood ducks in 1918, in hopes of saving the species from extinction. Population numbers did not improve because of the removal of trees with cavities used for nesting.

In the 1940s, the practice of building nest boxes began. In just twenty years the wood duck population had returned to its former numbers. The wood duck is a recovered species. Today, they are the most numerous of Ohio's nesting waterfowl.

See Also


  1. Peterjohn, John. The Birds of Ohio; Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN; 1989.
  2. Fellman, Bruce. "The Trouble with Wood Ducks." National Wildlife, Aug.-Sept. 1993, pp. 46-50.
  3. Hulbert, Archer B., and Schwarze, William N., eds. David Zeisberger's History of the North American Indians. Columbus, OH: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1910.