The population of the wood duck has increased a great deal in the last several years. This increase has been in large part due to the work of many people locating wood duck boxes and conserving vital habitat for the wood ducks to breed.
The following information is provided to help with the design, construction and placement of wood duck nest boxes. More free wood duck birdhouse plans can be downloaded here.
Nest Box Design
Nest boxes should be constructed of a weather-resistant wood, but not wood treated with weather resistant chemicals. Generally, cedar or cypress are good choices for wood duck boxes. The exterior of the wood can be painted or treated, but only on the outside, as interior finishes can harm the nest occupants and render the box unusable. The entrance hole should have a 4-inch diameter or be an oval that is 3 inches high and 4 inches wide. Mesh hardware cloth can be mounted to the inside of the box under the entry hole, or grooves can be cut into the wood to function as a ladder for the ducklings. A layer of wood shavings can be placed at the bottom of the box to serve as nesting material. The lid or one side of the box should be removable for nest monitoring and nesting chamber cleaning. All wood duck boxes should be fitted with a galvanized sheet metal predator guard. The predator guard should be placed 6 to 12 inches below the bottom of the box.
Locate nest boxes in relatively secluded areas within timber stands where natural cavities are found. Wood ducks carefully select their nest sites to minimize exposure to predators and competition from other wood ducks. Nest boxes can be placed either on land or over the water. If located over the water, they should be placed at least 4 feet above the high water level and the entrance hole should face the open water rather than the shoreline.
Because of ease of access by predators, installation of nest boxes directly on trees should be avoided. Nest boxes placed on land should be located from 30 to 150 feet away from the shoreline. Boxes placed directly on the shoreline appear to be more likely frequented by nest predators.
Since the hen must lead her ducklings to water soon after they hatch, the area between the nest box and the water’s edge should be free of any major obstacles such as roads or fencing. Nest boxes placed on poles over water are generally more easy to monitor than those placed in trees. Regardless of whether the box is placed over the water or land, the entrance should be clear of obstructions to provide easy access for the ducks.
It is generally recommended that nest boxes should be placed at least 600 feet apart and should not be visible to one another. When placing nest boxes in isolated locations, consider ease of access for monitoring purposes.
Below is a layout for cutting three predator guards from a 3 ft x 8 ft sheet of 26-gauge galvanized metal. Commercial predator guards and baffles are available. When installing the guard, overlap the cut edge to the dotted line. To facilitate cutting, follow the sequence of numbers. Make circular cuts in counterclockwise direction. To make initial cut on line A-B, make a slot at A with a wood chisel, use tinsnips, and wear leather gloves.
Nest Box Monitoring
Old nests and those of invasive species such as European starlings must be cleaned out regularly if the boxes are to be used more than once during a nesting season. Boxes should be checked least once before the beginning of the nesting season, and should be checked monthly during the nesting season if multiple use of nest boxes per nesting season is desired. Boxes should remain out during the winter to provide winter cover sites for screech owls and other resident birds. Nest box cameras can also be installed to provide a up close view of the nesting birds.