Wood duck boxes are a terrific – and easy – way to support and increase wood duck populations on your property. Two weeks ago our team wrapped up building and installing boxes on two farms for clients that are waterfowl enthusiasts. Read on for some general info about construction and placement of boxes, but first a little history…
It is estimated that as recently as the late 19th century wood ducks were the most abundant waterfowl species in North America. Unfortunately for wood ducks, this was also almost their undoing. Their distribution throughout the more populated regions meant they were especially accessible to market hunters, and that they were hit hard by habitat loss from expanding towns and cities. By the start of the 20th century they were thought to be on the brink of extinction.
Two events are credited with reversing this trend – 1) the 1918 Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) which regulated the hunting, capturing, sale, etc of migratory birds, including wood ducks; and 2) the advent of the wood duck box. Origins of the wood duck box are credited to biologists Gil Gigstead and Milford Smith, who in 1937 erected 486 wooden boxes in Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge in central IL. The boxes were meant to imitate typical nesting habitat of female Woodies – empty tree cavities near wetlands.
Like any home the primary goal of a Woodie box is to provide a safe and convenient place to raise little guys. Think turn key house in a good school district. For ducks this means a secure nesting site with proximity to shallow water with good cover. This allows ducklings quick access to water once they leave the box, minimizing predator exposure in tall grasses where they are at a distinct disadvantage. Boxes should be made with rough-cut lumber, and a layer of wood shavings should be added to each box for nesting material. Predator guards are essential, and we’ve found adding a section of PVC tubing to the post is an effective, low visibility deterrent. Check out this link from Ducks Unlimited for more info on construction.