Featured in Great Plains of North America – May 16, 2010
Although this beautiful male Wood Duck resembles the carved wooden kind, he is real, and he’s so gorgeous. Photographed at Kildonan Park, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada on Selkirk Creek.
Canon EOS Rebel XTi; Sigma 150-500mm lens
Many naturalists and hunters consider the Wood Duck Aix sponsa to be the most beautiful duck in North America, if not the world. The male in its multi-coloured breeding plumage, worn from October through June, is unexcelled among ducks. The female is less showy, although still beautiful and more colourful than other female ducks.
Wood Ducks are intermediate in size, between the Mallard and Blue-winged Teal; on average, males weigh 680 g and females weigh 460 g. From a distance, the male Wood Duck on the water appears as a dark-bodied, dark-breasted, light-flanked duck with a striped crested head and a light-coloured throat. At close range, its iridescent plumage, red eyes, and black, red, and white bill are conspicuous. A white eye-ring, light-coloured throat, and fine crest distinguish the female from both the male Wood Duck and females of other species. Both sexes usually show a downward pointing crest at the back of the head, and their long broad square tails are distinctive features in flight.
The wings of Wood Ducks are highly characteristic. The primary wing feathers, which are the 10 outermost flight feathers attached to the wing beyond the wrist, are dark in colour. The outer vanes of these feathers look as if they have been sprayed with aluminum paint. The Wood Duck is the only North American duck so marked.
In most cases it is possible to distinguish immature from mature ducks and to tell males from females by their wings alone. In the Wood Duck, as in other ducks, the feathers of that year’s young are finer, more pointed and worn, and less colourful than those of adults. Females show a few small feathers on the upper surface of the wing that are purplish and have the same lustre as oil on water. These feathers are absent in males. The white tips on the feathers along the trailing edge of the wing are usually teardrop-shaped in the female, but either straight or V-shaped in the male. By studying the wings of ducks taken by hunters, biologists can determine the ratio of young to adult ducks in the population and thereby measure waterfowl production.
The Wood Duck is a distinctively North American species. Its only close relative is the Mandarin Duck of eastern Asia. Evidently the Wood Duck originated in North America, as fossil remains have been found only in widely scattered locations in the eastern part of the continent.
Signs and sounds
The male Wood Duck has two vocalizations: a loud distressed whoo-eek and a finchlike jeee, with rising inflection. The female’s sound is a crrek, crrek.
For an excellent further read of this beautiful bird, see here