Wood Duck Basics

Ooo-EEK! Ooo-EEK! The familiar call of the wood duck is a sure sign that spring has arrived, but where will the wood duck find a home this year?

Wood ducks can be found in southern Canada and the northwestern and eastern parts of the United States near wooded swamps, ponds, and rivers. They are cavity dwellers and are not capable of creating cavities of their own. Therefore, they are totally reliant on cavities made by other birds, Mother Nature or man. Because they are large birds, wood ducks often have difficulties finding natural cavities large enough for the mother and the brood. A great source of housing for these ducks is man-made wood duck housing.

At the start of spring, female wood ducks have found their mates and have begun to look for a nesting site. Wood ducks may have up to two broods each year from April through June. The female begins the search and will settle in the most suitable site. She will be looking for a nest box mounted 5 - 20 feet high in a pole or a tree no farther than 200 feet from the water. It is best to mount the box as near to the water as possible. To make her and her brood more comfortable add approximately 3" of woodchips in the bottom of the box. After laying her clutch of about 14 eggs, she will pull some of her own down feathers to soften the bed for her little ones.

The eggs will incubate for 30 days. One day after they hatch, the mother will call to them from outside the box. The fledglings will obediently follow their mother's voice. They will climb up the inside wall of the box to exit through the hole. It is imperative to provide a "ladder" by horizontally scoring the inside surface of the box from the bottom of the house to the hole or by stapling a 5"-6" wide wire-cloth in the same location. After making the climb, they will fall to the ground unharmed and follow their mother to water. The trip from the box to the water is the perfect time for raccoons, hawks or snakes to pounce. It is best to keep the distance from the box to the water as short as possible. Mounting the box above water is ideal.