Perhaps the easiest way to attract wood ducks to your land may be to add nesting boxes. If you have a suitable aquatic environment but not enough trees with cavities for nesting, adding easy to build nesting boxes may increase the number of wood ducks nesting on your land. Here’s how I build economical nesting boxes and place them along a small stream on my land.
Wood ducks are adapted to living in wooded environments and are obligatory cavity nesters. They need a dependable water source near the nesting site which affords sufficient cover for the newly hatched ducklings. On my land, woods ducks naturally nest along a small stream that always has plenty of water during the spring nesting season. Here in Mississippi, the climate allows ducks to sometimes produce two hatches per year so nesting sites are highly beneficial.
Constructing the nest box.
I construct my boxes using cedar fence pickets salvaged from an old fence on my property and a few other scrap materials so the cost per nest box is less than $5. After pulling out a few rusty nails and cutting off any damaged ends, this free lumber is idea for nest box construction. It is a durable material and is already weathered in appearance.
The plans I followed are a simple design with a few minor modifications due to the lumber being used. A free set of the plans can be obtained from the Wood Duck Society. Simply cut out the pieces according to the plans and assemble with finishing nails. Using fence pickets means you have to make three pieces for the front and three for the rear panels. The two sides can be cut from a single picket but may possibly be fractionally smaller than the full 8 inches. This is not an issue for concern. The roof is made from two sections with a support reinforcement holding the pieces together on the underside.
The middle piece of the three back pieces is hinged to the top piece so that it can be opened for cleaning out the nest box. I use a wire closure wrapped around screws mounted on the middle and lower pieces to hold the rear access panel shut. Once you become familiar with the process, you should be able to quickly cut and assemble the nesting box.
Mounting the nest box.
The next boxes can be mounted to the side of a tree or at the top of a pole, The easiest way is to attach the box to a tree. But I like to use treated lumber set in quick mix cement. However, a metal, plastic, or other type of permanent pole can be used.
Ideally a predator guard should be used to give the ducks the best chance of survival. Many experts consider this to be essential but in nature there are no predator guards protecting nest cavities yet the birds still thrive. Simply having sufficient nest boxes available will attract more ducks to your area so that, in the end, the odds of sufficient ducks surviving is increased whether or not you install predator guards.
Installing the nest box.
When completed, the nest box should be installed where it can be seen by a flying wood duck traveling through openings in the trees. However, the box should be still be inconspicuous and separated by line of sight from other nest boxes in the area.
Boxes need to be mounted over water when possible to reduce predatory access. If mounted over land, keep the box close to water with an easy travel route to water for the baby ducklings. Be sure there is adequate cover at the water’s edge to help hide the baby ducks. The entrance hole for the box should be about 6 foot from the ground.
Monitor the nest box.
Monitor the use of the nest boxes to see the pattern of use. If a box is consistently not being used or other problems arise, such as excessive predator attacks or invasion by other species, consider relocating the box.
It takes only a minimal effort to enhance the effectiveness of a suitable nesting environment by installing and maintaining nest boxes. It may take one or two seasons for ducks to find and use the boxes but the rewards of having wood ducks on your property are worth the effort. You will be helping the birds while enhancing the diversity of your wildlife population.
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