Wood duck box placement, good things to build in woodshop - For Begninners

Categories: Woodworking Projects For Beginners | Author: admin 27.07.2012

Wood duck populations decreased during the late 19th and early 20th centuries as wetlands were drained and forests were cleared, especially old growth riparian forests containing many mature trees with nesting cavities. At the nature center (and on the migratory paths in central NYS) where I used to work, you did see wood ducks, and we had nesting boxes throughout the many-acre swamp.
This morning I was watching the wood ducks in our backyard and noticed a female enter the duck box and come out carrying an egg in her beak.
A tree trunk wrapped with metal is not enough protection for your hen wood duck and her clutch. Wood duck is the only wild duck species that frequently nests in southern Oklahoma and northern Texas.
Since the late 1940s, people have intensively studied wood ducks looking for ways to help increase their populations. Unfortunately, breeding wood duck populations appear to be declining in several portions of Oklahoma and Texas.
Placing nest boxes in subpar habitat probably harms wood ducks more than it benefits them, even when they successfully hatch broods. Bald cypress wood or three-quarter-inch exterior plywood probably are the best choices for nest box materials. Two years ago, one of our hunter friends saw a female wood duck going into a hole in a chestnut oak right on top of the ridge, about three quarters of a mile from the nearest body of water.
The wood duck’s closely related congener, the Mandarin duck, is very similar in ecological niche and behavior, including nesting habits.

I forgot to add that that sighting of mother duck with ducklings last spring was actually on International Migratory Bird Day, so we were able to add them to our list for the mountain! If this box had been in a different location, I would’ve assumed it was a kestrel box. A crafty raccoon can still navigate installations similar to this and compromise the nest box. Nesting efforts by a few other duck species, such as hooded merganser and mallard, have been documented in this area, but are rare. We have learned that wood ducks readily adapt to nest boxes (figure 2), which is surely advantageous because it takes 150-200 years to grow an old growth riparian forest. At least 85 percent of the riparian woodlands have been eliminated or degraded in these areas. An ideal wetland for raising wood ducks has flooded shrubs and trees, such as buttonbush and black willow, substantial herbaceous emergent and floating aquatic vegetation, open water, and at least 10 acres of surface area with most of the area less than three feet deep. Wood duck hatchlings climb to the nest entrance, jump out of the nest, and begin following the hen within the first 24 hours after hatching. This past spring, a different hunter was amazed one morning to encounter a wood duck leading her ducklings right down the middle of the Plummer’s Hollow Road.
The ducklings may jump from heights of up to 89 m (290 ft) without injury,” says the Cornell Lab of Ornithology page. Raccoons are major predators on wood duck boxes such as the one in the photo above, which is not protected with metal flashing or placement on a pole over deep water, as some conservationists recommend.

It is usually best to use rough-cut lumber for constructing the box so that the hen can more easily climb up and out of the hole.
Thousands of wood duck nest boxes have been erected during the last 50 years and wetland protection and construction have expanded during the last 35 years. Wood ducks sometimes use nest boxes erected some distance from water, but then have to walk the ducklings to an appropriate wetland. When they are less than 24 hours old, the ducklings climb out of the nest, using the long, sharp claws peculiar to their species, fall to the ground and follow their mother on foot to the nearest swamp, pond or stream, never to return to their nest.
But whether smooth or rough is used, it is always a good idea to install a ladder on the front inside wall of the box to make it easy for the female to climb out. Wood duck breeding populations responded by increasing at an overall continental rate of 5.9 percent per year during 1966-1999.
One wonders as well about the possibility of unnaturally ideal nest boxes producing local populations too large to be healthy, as has happened with humans ever since the growth of permanent settlements.
It is best that such wetlands not have many bass larger than one pound because bass eat small ducklings. Also a ramp that is scored or thin pieces of lath or other wood cross nailed on it for traction is important for helping pinioned birds get into the box, and this ramp should be placed from the entrance hole at about a 45 degree angle down to the water surface or ground for pinioned birds to climb up to the hole on.

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