Wood duck

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More names for this bird

Anishinaabemowin: Zhiishiib (duck)

Dakota: kika

The Dakota and Anishinaabe were among the earliest people to name Minnesota’s plants and animals, as well as to understand them in relation to Minnesota’s climate and seasons. Those original names are still in use, and several are included on the Season Watch website.

Latin (or scientific name): Aix sponsa

The scientific community has a convention of assigning agreed-upon Latin names to every kind of organism. Using scientific names helps people communicate confidently about the same organism and organize lifeforms based on how closely related they are.

A pair of wood ducks near water. The female has less colorful feathers and a distinctive white tear-drop shape around her eye. The male has brilliant, high-contrasting colors, including blue, green, chestnut, and white.
Female (left) and male (right) wood ducks
April 9, 2022, Toronto County, Ontario, Canada
Photo © Paul Reeves, some rights reserved (CC-BY-NC-SA)
iNaturalist observation

About the wood duck

  • Wood ducks have a varied diet that includes insects (such as flies, caterpillars and beetles); seeds like acorns and millet; fruit; and aquatic vegetation (such as duckweed and waterlily).
  • Wood ducks can be found in marshes, beaver ponds and forests next to water, as well as along waterways where there is adequate vegetation to provide cover.
  • They nest in natural tree cavities anywhere from two to sixty feet off the ground. They will also use artificial nest boxes.
  • Fun fact: Wood ducks are one of the few duck species with strong claws allowing them to grip and perch on tree branches.

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Click the full-frame icon (lower right corner of video) to play at full size.

Video file

More about eBird's abundance animations

eBird data from 2006-2020. Estimated for 2020. Fink, D., T. Auer, A. Johnston, M. Strimas-Mackey, O. Robinson, S. Ligocki, W. Hochachka, L. Jaromczyk, C. Wood, I. Davies, M. Iliff, L. Seitz. 2021. eBird Status and Trends, Data Version: 2020; Released: 2021. Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. https://doi.org/10.2173/ebirdst.2020

Visual guide to phenology

Watch for changes in wood ducks' presence (or absence), abundance, and behaviors at different times of year. Also, pay attention to when young-of-year fledge and develop.

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Note to observers

This page explains general clues to watch for when observing wood duck phenology. However, this page does not explain how to identify this bird or collect data in a standardized way.

A single female wood duck is swimming amid four mallards. There is snow in the background of this winter scene.
A pair of wood ducks are in a vernal pond, or a temporary wetland. Tree trunks in the background suggest this is a forest or woodland habitat.
A pair of wood ducks (male and female) perched in a tree in a spring forest scene. This tree might have a cavity they can use for nesting.
A female wood duck with five small ducklings. They are sitting and standing on a log that is floating in the water. The ducklings are about half as big as the parent.
A fledged wood duck on land. It does does not yet have the feather patterns seen on mature males or females, but is recognizable as a wood duck by the shape of its bill and body.
A group of four wood ducks perched on an old weathered tree trunk. The background is the golden color of late-season vegetation.

Graphs and historical data

Note: The Orientation Center provides a map, as well as information on reading graphs; interpreting summary statistics, who collected the data and how; and how to download datasets for independent exploration.

Marshall County

First seen

  • Earliest: March 25 and 24 (occurred in 1985 and 2000)
  • Average: April 4
  • Latest: April 15 (occurred in 2002)
Scatterplot showing wood duck phenology observations in Marshall County, Minnesota

Download this dataset (.csv file)

Sherburne County


  • Earliest: February 13 (occurred in 1984)
  • Average: March 17
  • Latest: March 31 (occurred in 1980)
Scatterplot showing wood duck phenology observations in Sherburne County, Minnesota

Download this dataset (.csv file)


Co-author: Jayme Hogan, Minnesota Master Naturalist