Wood Duck
(Aix sponsa)


Picture of bird
© Rick Leche
For additional photos and vocalizations, visit Dendroica. (Link opens in a new window.)

The Wood Duck is a secretive cavity-nesting species commonly found in swamps, marshes, and riparian habitats in Canada. In Canada, it breeds primarily in the eastern provinces, including in Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick. In western Canada, the breeding population is small and scattered in locations between southern British Columbia and the extreme southwest of Alberta. Once threatened with extinction, the population of this species is now stable or increasing in Canada. As a result of this recovery, the Wood Duck now ranks as one of the most abundant duck species in both southern Ontario and southern Quebec. Harvest levels have declined compared to levels in the 1980s, but have been stable in the last decade. This species has been identified as a priority for conservation and/or stewardship in one or more Bird Conservation Region Strategies in Canada.


Main designations for the species
DesignationStatusDateSubspecies, population
IUCN (Global)Least concern2018 
Wild Species (Canada)Secure2015 
Bird Conservation Region StrategyPriority Species2013 

Population status

Geographic area or populationPopulation change relative to ~1970ReliabilityStatus in relation to goal
CanadaLarge IncreaseMediumNot Applicable
Eastern Canada Large IncreaseMediumAt an Acceptable Level
Western CanadaModerate IncreaseMediumAt an Acceptable Level

Population estimate

Geographic area or populationPopulation estimate
Canada50,000 - 100,000 birds

Distribution maps


Migration strategy, occurrence

Short-distance migrant

Responsibility for conservation

Geographic areaResponsibility based on % of global population

General nesting period in Canada

Nesting period starts between mid-March and early May and ends in mid-July, depending on the region. Before or after this period, the probability of an active nest is lower.

Conservation and management

During the late 1800s to the early 1900s, extinction of the Wood Duck appeared imminent. The destruction of hardwood forests and overharvesting from hunting were the two major factors that contributed to the species’ decline (Baldassarre 2014). A complete ban on the Wood Duck hunt was in place between 1918 and 1941. The Wood Duck population recovered, and thus the hunt was reopened in 1941. The population is currently increasing or stable throughout much of the species’ range, based on recent various breeding bird atlases in eastern Canada and northeastern United States (Baldassarre 2014; Zimmerman et al. 2015).


Bird conservation region strategies

Environment and Climate Change Canada and partners have developed Bird Conservation Region Strategies in each of Canada’s Bird Conservation Regions (BCRs). In these strategies, selected species are identified as priorities for one or more of the following reasons:

  • conservation concerns (i.e., species vulnerable due to population size, distribution, population trend, abundance, or threats)
  • stewardship responsibilities (i.e., species that typify the regional avifauna or have a large proportion of their range or population in the sub-region)
  • management concerns (i.e., species that require ongoing management because of their socio-economic importance as game species, or because of their impacts on other species or habitats)
  • other concerns (i.e., species deemed a priority by regional experts for other reasons than those listed above or because they are listed as species at risk or concern at the provincial level)

Select any of the sub-regions below to view the BCR strategy for additional details.

BCRs, marine biogeographic units, and sub-regions in which the species is listed as a priority
RegionSub-region and priority type
Atlantic Northern ForestsAtlantic Northern Forests, sub-region and priority type: Atlantic, NB -- Other
Boreal Hardwood TransitionBoreal Hardwood Transition, sub-region and priority type: Ontario and Manitoba -- Conservation
Boreal Hardwood TransitionBoreal Hardwood Transition, sub-region and priority type: Quebec -- Other
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Ontario -- Conservation
Lower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence PlainLower Great Lakes/St. Lawrence Plain, sub-region and priority type: Quebec -- Other