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Wood Duck Nesting Boxes

Research in wetland forests in the southeast, including Louisiana, indicated that suitable nesting cavities for wood ducks were very limited, which in turn, limited populations of wood ducks.

In 1990, LDWF started installing wood duck nesting boxes on wildlife management areas and select private wetlands, state parks, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers properties to increase nesting habitat for wood ducks. Boxes with sheet metal predator guards to protect nesting hens are mounted on pipe donated by oil companies and placed in or near wetlands with good brood habitat to increase survival rates of young. We focus on sites with shallow water during early spring and summer with emergent vegetation or shrubs to provide escape cover for ducklings as well as submerged aquatic vegetation to provide protein-rich invertebrate foods needed for body and feather growth. Our goal is to maintain and monitor 2,000 wood duck nesting boxes.

Staff check boxes at least twice a year to monitor annual production. They also band nesting females when they encounter them—this is the largest source of banded adult females. From monitoring data, we have learned that nesting boxes are increasing local breeding populations of wood ducks and increasing use of our WMAs by wood ducks. Hooded merganser nesting in wood duck boxes is also increasing on some WMAs, and the expanding population of black-bellied whistling ducks are increasingly using nesting boxes later in the summer.

LDWF also provides technical assistance to private landowners who would like to enhance wood duck production on their property. Biologists evaluate the suitability of property for brood habitat and the need for annual maintenance.

LDWF joined a large-scale research project recently initiated in the southeastern United States to evaluate the recruitment of nesting hens from wood duck nesting boxes. We have partnered with Dr. Kevin Ringelman of LSU’s School of Renewable Natural Resources on this project. The primary goal of this project is to determine if female ducklings hatched in wood duck nesting boxes become adults that also nest in boxes; secondary goals include evaluating potential competition with black-bellied whistling ducks and analysis of all the banding data from nesting females banded in boxes.