What Do Wood Ducks Eat? Detailed List of Preferred Food.

Written by Emmanuel Kingsley
Published: February 10, 2022
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Wood ducks (Aix sponsa) are very colorful, which will be the first thing you would notice about this species of waterfowl. The colorful display you see is particular to male wood ducks, while the female is a more modest creature. 

They are mesmerizing to look at, and sometimes you are tempted to feed them, which begs the question, what do wood ducks eat? This article would educate you on all you need to know about what wood ducks eat.

What Do Wood Ducks Eat?

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Wood ducks eat nuts, seeds, vegetables, berries, and insects.

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©Rudolf Ernst/Shutterstock.com

Wood ducks eat nuts, seeds, vegetables, berries, insects, and they are predominantly omnivores. However, they make their nests in the trees of wooded swamps, small lakes, creeks, marshes, ponds, and different water bodies. Wood ducks often visit landed areas as they forage for food. 

What they eat is quite similar to other ducks’ diets. In fact, wood ducks are often seen in the company of mallard ducks foraging for food without conflict.

Most insects that live their entire life cycle or part of it in water bodies are prey for the wood duck. A study, on their diet, in the Journal of the Minnesota Academy of Science, showed that waterfowl such as wood ducks eat more animal matter than presumed.

Wood ducks obtain their food sources very quickly through their ability to dabble while foraging for food with their beaks. The beaks of wood ducks function as a sieve, thus significantly reducing the water content ingested.  

While animal matter makes up a large percentage of what the wood duck eats, plants being more abundant and available, make up a significant portion of their diet as well. Even in the water, they have access to smartweeds, widgeon grass, seeds, and nuts.

Being able to forage for food on both land and water has played a vital role in the survival of wood ducks. When food for waterfowls diminishes in aquatic environments, wood ducks go terrestrial to forage for their meal. Where insects like butterflies, moths, ants are prey, other foods are now accessible, including rice, berries, and soybeans.

Complete List of What Wood Ducks Eat

What wood ducks eat depends on the fauna and flora present in their location. Here is a complete list of what wood ducks eat:

  • Wild Rice 
  • Smartweeds 
  • Insects 
  • Soybeans
  • Invertebrates
  • Duckweed
  • Tree leaves
  • Fruits 
  • Nuts
  • Seeds 
  • Watermeal
  • Mollusks
  • Algae
  • Grains
  • Pond weeds
  • Berries
  • Small fishes
  • Grasses

How Does the Wood Duck Forage for Their Food?

What Do Wood Ducks Eat - Wood Ducks Swimming
Wood ducks dabble while foraging for food.

©Harry Collins Photography/Shutterstock.com

As discussed earlier, like most waterfowls, wood ducks’ beaks effectively filter insects in water bodies. To carry out this action effectively, the wood duck must find a place away from predators and dabble.

Dabbling is an action performed by wood ducks on a body of water, usually in shallow water. They peck at the surface of the water to get food. A more demanding effort would require them to dip their head below the surface to forage for vegetation, seed, and invertebrates at the bottom.

Another ability the wood duck utilizes is its capacity to perch. Its sharp claws can grip tree branches, allowing for arboreal tendencies and food gathering. According to The North American Perching and Dabbling Ducks by Paul Johnsgard, the wood duck is one of the very few waterfowls with the ability to dabble and perch.

What Do Babies of Wood Ducks Eat?

Wood ducks chicks require protein for their growth. At developmental stages, food rich in protein and are easily digestible are what the chicks would eat. 

Baby wood ducks eat insects, algae, small fish, duckweed, aquatic insects, and invertebrates primarily, and when they grow much older, they begin to eat grains, seeds, and nuts. 

The adult wood duck is saddled with getting food since the new breed will be housed in the nest until they grow stronger.

What are the Wood Ducks’ Predators?

The beauty of the wood duck causes the species to stand out and its dazzling coloration attracts predators. More importantly, being a protein food source leads to a variety of hunters targeting the wood duck.

  • Dogs: often used by humans to hunt duck
  • Birds of prey: eagles, hawks, condors, falcons, and many others
  • Reptiles
  • Amphibians; bullfrogs 
  • Raccoons
  • Fishes
  • Wolves
  • Feral cats
  • Coyote
  • Foxes 
  • Skunks
  • Minks
  • Badgers.
  • Corvids: magpies, and crows
  • Weasels
  • Opossums 
  • Herons 

With so many predators, it is wonder wood ducks are not hunted to extinction! Some of the ways in which their survival has been maintained are due to their ability to; 

  • Dive into water bodies
  • Fly
  • Grip tree branches with sharp claws
  • Construct nests inside holes in trees
  • Be aggressive during the breeding season
  • Be able to eat and run simultaneously even while being pursued.

Can Wood Ducks be Raised as Pets?

What Do Wood Ducks Eat
Pet wo


d ducks should not eat foods like chocolate, onions, avocado.


Wood ducks are beautiful birds that many people desire them as pets. However, there are a few things to consider if you are looking to raise one as a pet.

Pet owners are best served recreating their natural habitation as best as they can. Construct a large pond with clean water and ensure vegetation and trees are around it. These trees and vegetation are needed for food and the building of nests. The wood duck makes a nest in the holes of trees as a safeguard against predators.

You can also adopt preservatory measures by most bird conservatories, which involves the making of nest boxes raised very high, whether on poles or attached to trees. These nest boxes are filled with wood clippings and other materials the wood duck can use to build its nest.  

Food That Should Not Be Given To Pet Wood Ducks

  • Chocolate: theobromine and caffeine are present in chocolate and should not be offered to wood ducks. Even other mammals like dogs could die from eating chocolate. 
  • Avocado: avocados contain persin, which is toxic to wood ducks. A large concentrate of persin is in the leaves, pit, and endocarp of avocado.
  • Onion: this contains thiosulphate; ingesting it would affect the red blood cells of wood duck and lead to hemolytic anemia.
  • Bread: bread is relatively straightforward to come by, and because of its availability, it is the first choice in feeding birds. Wood ducks can eat bread, but only a tiny amount should be offered.
  • Citrus fruits: These fruits contain acid that stops the intake of calcium. Calcium is needed for strong bones.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Rudolf Ernst/Shutterstock.com

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