Wood Duck Nest Box
Many Oklahomans consider wood ducks the most spectacular species of waterfowl because of their elaborate plumage. The male’s head is crested and is metallic green and purple with white patches and lines. The throat is white, the bill red at the base, and the eye bright orange-red. Its chest is glossy purplish-chestnut which fades into the white of the breast. Back and rump are a rich bronze-green and the sides are pale buff. The adult female is rather plainly marked, grayish-brown duck with a crest and white eyeings. The wood duck’s appearance, as well as its inclination to nest near human activity, accounts for its popularity with waterfowl hunters and other wildlife enthusiasts. Other common names for wood duck include woody and squealer.
Early in this century this tree cavity-nesting species nearly disappeared because of the loss of primary habitat, bottomland timber, as well as unregulated hunting. As research into the life history of the species became available in the 1930’s, conservation agencies and private organizations built and installed thousands of nest boxes throughout the wood duck’s range. The ducks responded well to the artificial homes and now may be the most common breeding duck in the lower 48 states.
Wood ducks nest from late February through July with peak nesting time during March and April. The average clutch size is 12 with 1 egg being laid per day. The hen incubates the eggs for approximately 28 days. After the eggs hatch, the duckling leave the nest within 24 hours.
Renesting often occurs when predators or other events destroy nests during the incubation period. Occasionally wood ducks renest even after their first nests hatch successfully.
Wooded rivers, streams and marshes provide good habitat for wood ducks. Boxes mounted within or close to good brood rearing habitat is essential for the protection of young wood ducks from predators.
Suitable brood rearing habitat should include shallow areas along banks or in wetlands which contain low, overhanging or fallen woody vegetation. Flooded vegetation can also provide seclusion and protection for broods while foraging or loafing.
The best lumber to use for wood duck boxes is untreated cedar or pine, preferably in rough- cut condition for a "natural" look. Leaving the rough texture on the inside also will allow the duckling to climb up and out of the structure. Also, a three-inch wide strip of 1/4-inch hardware cloth with sharp ends bent under can be stapled inside the box. The wire mesh should lead from the bottom to the entry-exit hole to ensure the duckling' exit. Four 1/4-inch drainage holes should be drilled in the bottom of the box. A three to four inch layer of sawdust or wood shavings should then be placed in the box for nesting material.
Secure boxes to metal or rot-resistant wooden posts (4 x 4s work well). It is best to mount nest boxes over permanent water at least seven to eight feet above the water surface and at least three feet above the floodmark of the stream or impoundment. Mounting the boxes higher (15-20 ft.) is advantageous, but only if they are accessible for annual cleaning.
Position the poles at the water's edge or directly in the water to minimize the duckling' vulnerability when they follow their mother from the nest. Install nest box units in secluded areas at intervals greater than 100 yards to isolate nests and maximize nesting efficiency.
To help protect the nest from predators, especially raccoons and snakes, install a protective shield below the nest box. This cone shaped device should be placed at least one or two feet below the box. For best results use 26-gauge sheet metal with a diameter of 36 inches. Locating the nest box over water will help exclude some predators.
Each January, clean out old sawdust or wood shavings along with any shells and debris. Replace it with fresh sawdust or wood shavings for the new nesting season.
You can construct your own ( wood duck box by using the diagram in this brochure. Whether you make your own, or purchase your boxes, you will enjoy watching future generations of wood ducks.