Wood Ducks are Coming Get Your Next Boxes Ready

Wood Ducks are Coming

Get Your Nest
Boxes Ready



Sounds of nature are enchanting. Spring peepers are entertaining, until the chorus is so loud you shut your windows at night. That red-tail hawk, screeching as it soars overhead, peering down for its next meal. That deep-boar sound of a bullfrog, as it tries to entice a mate at dusk, after the song birds have retired for the evening.

    Those sounds.

    I especially like the call of wood ducks as they migrate here to nest. We’ve got six wood duck boxes scattered around our eleven acres, each one enticing to the prettiest ducks in North America.            


A few years ago, good friend Bob McFarland wrote a story for Pond Boss describing what they do at their northeast Texas lake. Bob and his bride, Donna, have become wood duck experts, raising hundreds of them around their six-acre. appropriately named “Little Duck Lake”.

    You may want to consider attracting cavity-nesting wood ducks as part of your stewardship plan, or just to enjoy watching nature do what nature does.

    Now is the time to put up wood duck boxes.

    Last February, we received an email from a company that manufactures plastic wood duck boxes, asking about our readership to see if they might be a good fit as an advertiser.

    Looking at their products piqued my interest, so I called and bought one. When I spent time online looking at the expert websites, two things seemed to predominate the mindset when it comes to buying and installing wood duck boxes. Avoid predators and use wooden boxes.

    When I spoke with the owner of the company, Kent Grimm, from Iowa, he explained how he even got into building wood duck boxes. “My son-in-law loves wood ducks and has put up many boxes.” He continued, “I own a plastic molding company and suggested we could design a box that would be easy to install, lightweight, and effective. So, we gave it a shot and now we have a product wood ducks love.”

    Ducks Unlimited and the Wood Duck Society recommend wooden boxes, because they suggest plastic boxes get too hot and have been known to have low hatch rates. Grimm said, “We didn’t want that to happen with ours, so we figured out how to vent it properly for excellent air circulation.”

    They claim their boxes have a better design, not only with better air flow, but with a removable bottom to change nesting material. That’s a big deal, if you have wood duck boxes.

    As far as installing your wood duck box, the best management practices seem to jibe with most of the experts. Mount them next to water, with a predator guard so nothing can slither or climb up the pole. And, they don’t have to be too high off the water. Just high enough to be taller than a raccoon can reach.

    McFarland told us he expects two hatches per year, one in February or March and another in summer. He and Donna also have a camera inside one of their boxes, so they can watch the hen sit on the eggs. When the eggs hatch, the following day will be jump day when all the ducklings climb out of the box and momma takes them on the water and hides them. The McFarland’s are outside at daylight, even though the jump may not happen until as late as 10:00 a.m.

    Grimm says every box they have near a pond ends up with the ducks headed to a creek and making their way to a river.

    Spending some time researching wood ducks and their behavior, you’ll find that standard recommendations are to keep box openings away from the line of sight of others, and keep distance between boxes.

    Grimm disagrees with that. “We have one utility pole with ten boxes on it. Every one of those is used. We’ve found that, with more boxes, we have more nesting hens having successful hatches because they don’t need to try to fight over a box. We see fewer hens laying eggs in other’s nesting boxes.”

    Makes sense to me.

    When a wood duck hen hatches her brood, those babies imprint on that box. Some of the youngsters will fledge. Some will grow up, and some will come back. If the baby can get back to the box before momma does next year, there might be a tussle.

    That’s a big reason Grimm is inclined to install more than one box on a pole, contrary to what the general consensus might suggest in the wood duck community.

    Wood ducks lay an egg per day and when the hen has a clutch of 10-15 eggs, she’ll sit. Then, it takes 24-28 days for the eggs to hatch. McFarland’s experience suggests 80-90% of the eggs hatch. They make it a point to be home and watch for jump day. That’s a celebration around Little Duck Lake.

    Oh, and it’s common for one or two little ducks to be left behind. Mom will wait around for a short time, but she tends to the business of caring for her babies, hiding them, and protecting them from harm as best she can, as she looks for bugs and other morsels for her brood to eat.

    When that solitary late-comer pops out, it’s on its own…except at the McFarland place. Bob and Donna have become experts at growing and fledging those little darlings.

    Here at our place, we love to go around this time of year, change out all the bedding material as we listen for woodies to come back. When we hear them, that little smile crosses our faces and we’ll check the boxes periodically to see if they’re in use. Most of the time, they are.

    You may be in a good spot to attract and raise wood ducks. Once you start, expect to see them every year, and bringing more with them.

    If the plastic boxes interest you, find them at www.duckhut.co. Also look at www.coveside.com for wooden boxes and www.birdhousespycam.com for cameras.

    It’s truly fun to see wood ducks make their way to your water and perch on top of a box, even if for a short time. Watching the hens come and go, and hearing their unique sounds brings joy and adds a fun dimension to our pond management plan. Knowing that babies will be raised and blend into nature is a special joy, too.


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