Wood duck
Aix sponsa
ITIS Species Code:   175122         NatureServ Element Code:   ABNJB09010
NatureServe Global Rank: 
NatureServe State (NC) Rank: 
Federal Status: 
NC State Status: 
Southern Blue Ridge:  18 Southern Piedmont:  16 South Atl. Coastal Plain:  17
Land Unit

US Fish & Wildlife Service
US Forest Service
US National Park Service
US Department of Defense
NC State Parks
NC University System
NC Wildlife Res. Com.
NC Forest Service
NC Div. of Coastal Mgmt.
Local Governments
Non-Governmental Org.
Other Public Lands
Private Lands

GAP Status 1-2
All Protected Lands




% of Dist. on
Prot. Lands

34.1 %
7.5 %
13.9 %
0.6 %
8.4 %
3.7 %
17.3 %
1.7 %
3.2 %
8.8 %
8.8 %
< 0.1 %
0.2 %

66.6 %
% of Dist. on
All Lands

4.1 %
0.9 %
1.8 %
< 0.1 %
1.0 %
0.5 %
2.1 %
0.2 %
0.4 %
< 0.1 %
1.1 %
< 0.1 %
87.7 %

8.1 %
Breeds in local areas throughout the state, but more commonly near the coast (Fussell 1994, Pearson 1959, Potter et al. 1980). Uncommon on the barrier islands (Fussell and Lyons 1990).

Freshwater swamps (Fussell 1994), ponds, rivers, lakes, or other slow-moving water, usually surrounded by deciduous or mixed woods that often shade the water. Also in open marshes within woodlands (Kaufman 1996) and beaver ponds (Bellrose 1976). Ducklings are reared in wetlands with emergent vegetation, shrubs, downed trees, and open water (Nicholson 1997).

Nests in cavities in live or dead trees located in, near, or a distance from water (Potter et al. 1980). Trees are often older and larger than the typical second-growth. Frequently uses cavities made by Pileated Woodpeckers (Haramis 1990). Cavities are located 2-65 feet above ground, with those at least 30 feet above ground being preferrred. Depth of preferred cavities has been found to average 10-19 inches (Bellrose et al. 1964). Will also nest in chimneys or nest boxes (Potter et al. 1980).


Quiet inland waters near woodland, such as wooded swamps, flooded forest, greentree reservoirs, ponds, marshes, and along streams. Winters on both freshwater and brackish marshes, ponds, streams, and estuaries (AOU 1983, Dugger and Fredrickson 1992).

Nests in holes in large trees in forested wetlands, and in bird boxes, usually within 0.5 km of water and near forest canopy openings, sometimes 1 km or more from water. Prefers cavities with an entrance size of at least 9 cm, an interior basal area of at least 258 sq cm, and a height of 2 m or more above ground (Dugger and Fredrickson 1992). Elms and maples are important habitat components in most areas because they provide protein-rich samaras in spring and suitable nest cavities. Often returns to same nesting area, sometimes same nest box, in successive years. If nest destroyed, moves to new site to renest. After young leave nest, female may led them up to several km to suitable habitat (food and cover). Shallowly flooded habitat with good understory cover is important cover for broods. Commonly lays eggs in nests of conspecifics.

Occupied Landcover Map Units:
Code NameDescription NC Natural Heritage Program Equivalent
75 Tidal Swamp Forest Swamp tupelo dominated forest with or without black tupelo and/or cypress trees. Restricted to the tidal zones in the coastal plain. May have inclusions of coastal red cedar woodlands. Tidal cypress - gum swamp
380 Coastal Plain Fresh Water Emergent Emergent vegetation in fresh water seepage bogs, ponds and riverbeds of the coastal plain. Includes alliances dominated by sedges, eelgrass, as well as cane found in unforested cane-brakes. Small Depression Pond, Sandhill Seep, Floodplain Pool, Unforested Floodplain Canebrake, Riverscour Prairies, Vernal Pools
173 Coastal Plain Riverbank Shrubs Shrub dominated riverbanks, commonly dominated by willows and/or alders. Sand and Mud Bar
50 Coastal Plain Mixed Bottomland Forests Includes forests dominated by a variety of hardwood species, including sweetgum, cottonwood, red maple. Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwood (in part), Coastal Plain Levee Forest
49 Coastal Plain Oak Bottomland Forest Bottomland forests dominated by deciduous oak alliances. Oaks represented can include swamp chestnut, cherrybark, willow, and/or overcup oak. Inclusions of loblolly pine temporarily flooded forests occur in patches. Hydrology is temporarily to seasonally flooded. Coastal Plain Bottomland Hardwoods (in part) blackwater subtype, brownwater subtype
158 Coastal Plain Nonriverine Wet Flat Forests Loblolly pine - Atlantic white-cedar - red maple - swamp tupelo saturated forests as well as forests dominated by loblolly, sweetgum, and red maple in non-riverine flats. Non-riverine Wet Hardwood Forest
15 Seepage and Streamhead Swamps Includes extensive peat flats in the coastal plain, dominated by swamp tupelo, maples, and Atlantic white cedar alliances. In the sandhills includes streamhead pond pine and bay forests alliances. Saturated hydrology. Bay Forest, Small Depression Pocosin, Streamhead Atlantic White Cedar Forest, Streamhead Pocosins
30 Cypress-Gum Floodplain Forests Swamps dominated by black or swamp tupelo with or without Taxodium. Seasonally to semi-permanently flooded hydrology. Cypress-Gum Swamps
78 Pond-Cypress - Gum Swamps, Savannas and Lakeshores Cypress dominated swamps and lakeshores. Can include bays dominated by pond cypress or shorelines of coastal plain lakes with a narrow band of cypress. Non-riverine Swamp Forest, Natural Lakeshores (in part)
385 Oak Bottomland Forest and Swamp Forest The swamp chestnut oak, cherrybark oak, shumard oak and sweetgum alliance is one representative. Other alliances are dominated by water, willow, and overcup oaks. Swamp forests can be dominated by sweetgum, red maple, and black gum being dominant. Loblolly can occur in combination with sweetgum and red maple, or with tulip poplar. Includes saturated and semi- to permanently flooded forests in the mountains. Piedmont/Mountain Bottomland Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Swamp Forest
63 Coastal Plain Mesic Hardwood Forests Beech dominated forests with white oak and northern red oak as possible co-dominants. Dry-mesic to mesic forests on slopes and small stream bottoms in the coastal plain. Mesic Mixed Hardwood Forest, Basic Mesic Forests
138 Coastal Plain Dry to Dry-Mesic Oak Forests Oak dominated forests of the coastal plain. Includes white oak forests with water oak or northern red oak and hickories as co-dominants. Dry Mesic Oak Hickory Forest, Basic Oak Hickory Forest, Dry Oak Hickory Forest
238 Piedmont/Mountain Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Seasonally to permanently flooded areas with aquatic vegetation. Waterlily, pondweed, hydrilla smartweed are a few of the species that can occur. Piedmont/Mountain Semipermanent Impoundment (in part)
239 Piedmont/Mountain Emergent Vegetation Emergent vegetation of all wetland hydrologies. Sites would commonly support species such as tussock sedge, rushs, and cattail alliances. Rocky Bar and Shore (in part)
267 Riverbank Shrublands Riverside shrubs with temporarily flooded hydrologies. Found in the both the Mountains and Piedmont. Containing dominants such as smooth alder and a Carolina or black willows. Sand and Mud Bar
269 Floodplain Wet Shrublands Saturated shrublands of the Piedmont, includes buttonbush, swamp-loosestrife, decodon and alders. Piedmont/mountain Semipermanent Impoundment
384 Piedmont/Mountain Mixed Bottomland Hardwood Forests Includes temporarily to seasonally forests dominated by hardwood species. Hardwoods include sweetgum, red maple, sycamore which co-occur in a mosaic of bottomland and levee positions. Includes alluvial hardwood forests in the mountains. Hemlock and white pine may occur as inclusions, but are generally mapped separately. Piedmont/Mountain Alluvial Forest, Piedmont/Mountain Levee Forest
8 Open water Open water without aquatic vegetation. No equivalent
517 Hemlock Floodplain Forest Alluvial forest with hemlock and/or white pine in mountains and western piedmont. Hydrology is generally temporarily to seasonally flooded. Canada Hemlock Forest
View Entire Landcover Legend
Additional Spatial Constraints:
Exclude all area outside of known range.
Exclude all land greater than 500 meters from an open water feature.
Exclude all land greater than 500 meters from wet vegetation.
Exclude all water greater than 50 meters from land.
Exclude brackish and salt water habitats.
Dugger, K. M., and L. H. Fredrickson. 1992. Life history and habitat needs of the wood duck. U.S. Fish Wildl. Serv., Fish and Wildlife Leaflet 13(1.6). 8 pp.

Fussell, J. III and M. Lyons. 1990. Birds of the Outer Banks [pamphlet]. Eastern National Parks and Monument Association Coastal Wildlife Refuge Society.

Bellrose, F. C., and D. J. Holm, editors. 1994. Ecology and management of the wood duck. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. 588 pp.

Fussell, J.O. III. 1994. A birder’s guide to coastal North Carolina. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press.

Semel, B., P. W. Sherman, and S. M. Byers. 1988. Effects of brood parasitism and nest-box placement on wood duck breeding ecology. Condor 90:920-930.

Kaufman K. 1996. Lives of North American Birds. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Nicholson CP. 1997. Atlas of the breeding birds of Tennessee. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.

Pearson, T.G. 1959. Birds of North Carolina. Raleigh, NC: Bynum Printing Company.

Kortright, F.H. 1967. The ducks, geese, and swans of North America. The Stackpole Company, Harrisburg, PA, and Wildlife Management Institute, Washington, D.C. 476 pp.

Bellrose, F.C., K.L. Johnson and T.U. Meyers. 1964. Relative value of natural cavities and nesting houses for wood ducks. Journal of Wildlife Management 28:661-676.

Hester, F. E., and J. Dermid. 1973. The world of the wood duck. J. B. Lippencott Co., Philidelphia. 160 pp.

Bellrose, F.C. 1976. Ducks, geese and swans of NorthšAmerica. Stackpole Books, Harrisburg, Pa.

U.S. Fish & Wildl. Serv. 1976. Nest boxes for wood ducks. U.S. Fish & Wildl. Serv. Wildl., Wildl. Leaflet 510. 14 pp.

Palmer, R. S., editor. 1976. Handbook of North American birds. Vol. 3. Waterfowl (concluded). Eiders, wood ducks, diving ducks, mergansers, stifftails. Yale Univ. Press, New Haven. 560 pp.

Potter, E. F., J. F. Parnell, and R. P. Teulings. 1980. Birds of the Carolinas. Univ. North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill. 408 pp.

Terres, J.K. 1980. The Audubon Society encyclopedia of North American birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York.

American Ornithologists' Union (AOU), Committee on Classification and Nomenclature. 1983. Check-list of North American Birds. Sixth Edition. American Ornithologists' Union, Allen Press, Inc., Lawrence, Kansas.

Ridlehuber, K. T., and J. W. Teaford. 1986. Wood duck nest boxes. Section 5.1.2, US Army Corps of Engineers Wildlife Resources Management Manual. Tech. Rep. EL-86-12. Waterways Expt. Station, Vicksburg, Mississippi. 21 pp.

Lacki, M. J., S. P. George, and P. J. Viscosi. 1987. Evaluation of site variables affecting nest box use by wood ducks. Wildl. Soc. Bull. 15:196-200.

U.S. Fish & Wildl. Serv. 1988. SEIS 88. Final supplemental environmental impact statement:issuance of annual regulations permitting the sport hunting of migratory birds. x + 340 pp.

Root, T. 1988. Atlas of wintering North American birds:An analysis of Christmas Bird Count data. University of Chicago Press. 336 pp.

Hepp, G. R., and J. E. Hines. 1991. Factors affecting winter distribution and migration distance of wood ducks from southern breeding populations. Condor 93:884-891.

Droege, S., and J.R. Sauer. 1990. North American Breeding Bird Survey, annual summary, 1989. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Report 90(8). 22 pp.

Livezey, B. C. 1991. A phylogenetic analysis and classification of recent dabbling ducks (tribe Anatini) based on comparative morphology. Auk 108:471-507.

10 March 2005
This data was compiled and/or developed by the North Carolina GAP Analysis Project.

For more information please contact them at:
NC-GAP Analysis Project
Dept. of Zoology, NCSU
Campus Box 7617
Raleigh, NC 27695-7617
(919) 513-2853