The Wood Duck is a common bird of riparian habitats, wooded swamps, and freshwater marshes. It is also the most successful of the seven species of North American ducks that regularly nest in natural cavities. This species' body and eyes appear well adapted to the wooded habitat it favors: its slim body allows use of Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) cavities for nesting, and its large eyes help individuals avoid branches on flights through the tree canopy.
Early ornithologists in North America reported robust populations of Wood Ducks until late in the nineteenth century, after which numbers began to decline, especially near large cities, owing to overharvest, deforestation, and loss of wetland habitats. Many ornithologists believed this species would become extinct by the early decades of the twentieth century, but because of healthy populations in remote swamps, numbers were never as low as predicted. Once the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 protected this species from legal harvest in the United States and Canada, populations staged a remarkable comeback, increasing steadily until 1985. Since then, population growth has leveled off even though harvest has declined. Use of nest boxes, expanding beaver (Castor canadensis) populations which create favored wetland habitat, and restrictive harvests are all thought to have contributed significantly to the recovery of the Wood Duck in North America.
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