Small to medium sized duck with crested head, broad wings, and large, rectangularly shaped tail. Sexes dimorphic in Alternate plumage. Male has distinctive facial pattern (iridescent green and purple head; white throat with fingerlike extensions onto cheek and neck; red eye; long green, purple, and white crest; and burgundy breast) and overall colorful plumage. The brownish to gray female Wood Duck is distinguished by a pronounced white patch around the eye, white throat, and gray crest. Males in Basic plumage and juveniles resemble adult females (Hepp and Bellrose 1995).
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
Western Hemisphere Range
Normal migration periods statewide are from early April to early May and from September 14 to November 7 (Davis 1961, Skaar 1969).
Wide variety of habitats: creeks, rivers, overflow, bottomlands, swamps, marshes, beaver and farm ponds (Hepp and Bellrose 1995). In the Bozeman area it is found most of the time in quiet sloughs in mature cottonwood forests (Skaar 1969).
The Wood Duck is an omnivore with a broad diet. Seeds, fruits and aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates are main foods taken (Hepp and Bellrose 1995).
A cavity nester, but does not excavate the cavity; instead uses preformed cavities. Eggs are elliptical to subelliptical, vary in color from white or creamy white to dark tan and are fairly glossy (Hepp and Bellrose 1995). Nesting occurs from late May to early July (Davis 1961). Small chicks were seen near Three Forks on June 26, and a single chick near Missoula on June 23 (Skaar 1969), representing the earliest chick records.