wood duck

North American Wood Duck

Aix sponsa


The Wood Duck is one of the most brilliantly colored ducks in Illinois. The male is brightly colored with a complex facial design. His body consists of shades of maroon, black, and brown. His head is emerald green with white stripes. The female is brown or gray in color with a white throat and chest and a white ring around each eye. Both sexes have a crest of feathers which points downward at the back of the head.


Wood Ducks are medium-sized ducks. They measure 17-20 inches in length and have a 28-inch wingspan. They weigh approximately 1.5 pounds.

Individual Animal Information

The Wood Ducks at Cosley Zoo were obtained from a duck breeder.



In the wild, juvenile Wood Ducks feed on aquatic invertebrates, such as dragonflies, beetles, and spiders. This high protein diet helps them to grow rapidly. As adults, their diets change to plant material, including acorns, grains, fruits, and seeds. Much of their food is obtained by foraging on the ground. The ducks at Cosley Zoo are fed a commercially prepared duck diet.


Female Wood Ducks usually return to nest within a half-mile of where they were born. They nest in tree cavities, where they will lay between 6 and 15 white eggs. The female incubates the eggs, which will hatch approximately 1 month later. Shortly after hatching (usually within 24 hours), the young will jump out of the nest.  They are able to fly after 8-10 weeks.

Shelter and Space Needs

Wood Ducks are found in wooded swamps and forests in the eastern United States and western coastal areas. They can also be found in the Southern part of Canada. They require a large number of trees with branches on which to perch and natural cavities to lay their eggs in. Northern populations migrate to the southern part of the United States for the winter, where they can more easily find food.

Life Expectancy

In the wild, the average life expectancy of the Wood Duck is thought to be 3-4 years. They can live up to 15 years in captivity.

Relationship with Man

Wood Ducks are said by some bird watchers to be the most beautiful ducks in North America, due to their colorful plumage. They play important roles in the ecosystem, both as predators and prey for animals such as owls and foxes.

Fun Facts