Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)

A brightly-colored wood duck swims on a pond.

NPS/Gordon Dietzman

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The wood duck gathers most of its food of insects, snails, mollusks, plants, seeds, nuts, and berries, from the forested wetland habitat it prefers. Unlike many ducks, the female nests in tree holes and will perch in trees.

These small, beautiful ducks nearly disappeared in the early 1900s due to habitat destruction, primarily the loss of hollow trees that provided nest sites. They have made a remarkable comeback, mostly due to an extensive nest box program.

Nest boxes are often placed near water features, such as wooded ponds, but these ducks will travel some distance from water to find a suitable cavity. Shortly after hatching the ducklings will leap from the boxes and natural cavities to the ground, a distance that may range from a few feet to as much as 50 feet! Most hit the ground and are unhurt in their semi-controlled fall. The female quickly leads the vulnerable young to a nearby pond.

Get Involved

Help wood ducks by building and installing wood duck nest boxes using these wood duck box instructions. A very good book is "Woodworking for Wildlife" and containing plans nesting structures for many species of birds, including wood ducks.


  • Key ID Features: The male is shown in the photograph. The female is primarily brown with a distinctive band of white around the eye.
  • Present in Park: Late March through early November. A few overwinter in the Twin Cities area. Look for these gorgeous birds at places like Crosby Farm Regional Park and the lakes of Fort Snelling State Park.
  • Habitat: Lowland forest, ponds, marshes. Nests are in natural cavities and nest boxes; prefer wood chips on floor of cavity.
  • Voice: This duck does not quack, but has a series of thin whistles, usually when started or aroused.

Last updated: February 25, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

111 E. Kellogg Blvd., Suite 105
Saint Paul, MN 55101


This is the general phone line at the Mississippi River Visitor Center.

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