21 Mar. 1984|
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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. 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.
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.
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.
Wood duck breeding populations responded by increasing at an overall continental rate of 5.9 percent per year during 1966-1999.
It is best that such wetlands not have many bass larger than one pound because bass eat small ducklings.