The wood duck used to be the most abundant species of waterfowl in eastern North America. But, as with so many other animals and waterfowl, the wood duck almost became as extinct as the Do-Do. Suburbia moved in, literally, to the wood duck’s world and these densely populated areas led to over-harvesting; bottomland habitats disappeared, and so did one of the most colorful creatures in nature.
In 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act came to be, which was literally the saving grace for the amazing wood duck to rejuvenate and come back into the world. Another thing that was a integral part of their return, was the fact that many decided to take on the weight of the problem and build wood duck boxes.
These fake structures actually allowed the wood duck to do what they needed to do, which was use them to nest away from the prying eyes and claws of their many predators. In other words, human beings wanted to make sure that this particular creature could have safety so that they could repopulate.
Made from cypress, the wood duck box saved thousands of the species. And it wasn’t only the environmentally-conscious ‘set’ that rose to the challenge. Hunters, homeowners, everyone in small towns began to build them, and they haven’t stopped yet.
When people think of nests, they usually associate that one term with a place where baby’s can be safe from predators, giving them time for Mom to take care of them and feed them before they take off on their own.
Natural nests are usually made in the millions of nooks and crannies that trees provide, which are usually located close to wetland regions. Discovering a ‘natural’ site can be extremely difficult for the bird, however, so citizens erect the wood duck boxes as safe alternatives for the species to use.
Designing and building a wood duck box is an important endeavor so that the waterfowl can receive the best home possible. After finding the appropriate site where the weather-resistant box can be a huge benefit, the person then goes to work.
Cypress is the best wood simply because the qualities of cypress makes it perfect for long-term care. And the actual architecture of the box, with a large sloped roof that overhangs all sides, can be well hidden in the trees and provide the best protection for the next generation of wood ducks to be reared.
Water must be available within a couple hundred yards of the nest so the ducklings will be able to survive. Shallow, fertile wetlands that offer thick cover to protect the brood make the best habitats, but the water supply is the number one most important factor id such a habitat can not be found.
The boxes are built on wooden posts or metal conduits outfitted with predator guards. In many cases, guards made of sheet metal are extremely effective. Also, no tree limbs should overhang the box that can offer the raccoon a way to intrude on the wood duck family.
A layer of wood shavings is perfect for the nest, helping the female cover the eggs with a natural substance. Every year, usually in late winter, the boxes should be well-cleaned and made up with new wood shavings just so they’re ready for the mom to return. That annual maintenance is a must, seeing as that wood ducks will increase usage of the box and the nest will become even more productive over time.
The bottom line is that helping these creatures to survive is yet another outdoor activity that can be done with the family, and the wood duck will be truly appreciative of all your hard work.