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The wood duck or Carolina duck (Aix sponsa) is a species of perching duck found in North America. It is one of the most colorful North American waterfowl.
The wood duck is a medium-sized perching duck. A typical adult is from 47 to 54 cm (19 to 21 in) in length with a wingspan of between 66 to 73 cm (26 to 29 in). This is about three-quarters of the length of an adult mallard. It shares its genus with the Asian Mandarin duck (Aix galericulata).
The adult male has distinctive multicolored iridescent plumage and red eyes,with a distinctive white flare down the neck. The female, less colorful, has a white eye-ring and a whitish throat. Both adults have crested heads.
The male’s call is a rising whistle, jeeeeee; the females utter a drawn-out, rising squeal, do weep do weep, when flushed, and a sharp cr-r-ek, cr-e-ek for an alarm call.
Their breeding habitat is wooded swamps, shallow lakes, marshes or ponds, and creeks in eastern North America, the west coast of the United States and western Mexico. They usually nest in cavities in trees close to water, although they will take advantage of nesting boxes in wetland locations if available. Females line their nests with feathers and other soft materials, and the elevation provides some protection from predators. Unlike most other ducks, the wood duck has sharp claws for perching in trees and can, in southern regions, produce two broods in a single season—the only North American duck that can do so.
Females typically lay between 7 and 15 white-tan eggs that incubate for an average of 30 days. However, if nesting boxes are placed too close together, females may lay eggs in the nests of their neighbours, which may lead to nests which may contain as many as 30 eggs and unsuccessful incubation, a behaviour known as “nest dumping”.
The birds are year-round residents in parts of its southern range, but the northern populations migrate south for the winter. They overwinter in the southern United States near the Atlantic coast. 75% of the wood ducks in the Pacific Flyway are non-migratory. They are also popular, due to their attractive plumage, in waterfowl collections and as such are frequently recorded in Great Britain as escapes—populations have become temporarily established in Surrey in the past but are not considered to be self-sustaining in the fashion of the closely related Mandarin duck. Given its native distribution the species is also a potential natural vagrant to Western Europe and there have been records in areas such as Cornwall, Scotland and the Isles of Scilly which some observers consider may relate to wild birds; however, given the wood duck’s popularity in captivity it would be extremely difficult to prove their provenance one way or another. There is a small feral population in Dublin.