Nesting boxes for wood ducks available from Division of Fish and Wildlife
DOVER (March 28, 2013) – The Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife is offering wood duck nesting boxes available for sale to the public for a discounted price of $30. The boxes are made of low-maintenance, easy-to-clean plastic. Wildlife staff maintains approximately 350 wood duck boxes on state wildlife areas, and has found no difference between wood and plastic boxes in terms of nesting success or preference of use by wood ducks and other species.
To attract wood ducks, and avoid competition from other species, the ideal location for wood duck boxes is in wooded areas or forested wetlands installed at least six feet above the ground on predator-proof poles. Although the boxes are designed primarily for wood ducks, they also attract other species, including the screech-owl and the European starling. The Eastern screech-owl is a small, nocturnal raptor that favors similar habitat to the wood duck, whereas the European starling is an aggressive, non-native, invasive species that competes with native cavity-nesting birds such as wood ducks, screech-owls and woodpeckers.
Screech owls and wood ducks are not competitive and can use separate wood duck boxes in the same area, if the boxes are placed in or near appropriate habitat. Screech owls will roost in the boxes year-round and sometimes nest in them. On winter days, the owls can often be seen in the nest box entrance sunning themselves, particularly if the box is south-facing. Unlike starlings, which compete for the boxes and will often exclude wood ducks, the screech owls will leave the box if a wood duck moves in.
“Starlings prefer to nest in open habitat, whereas both screech owls and wood ducks like nesting in wooded areas,” said Kent County Regional Wildlife Manager Wayne Lehman. “Nesting boxes shared by screech owls and wood ducks should be placed primarily in wooded habitat, where the boxes don’t attract starlings.”
Although wood ducks will nest in boxes located in close proximity, the latest research indicates that boxes too close together may lead to high incidences of dump nesting. Dump nesting occurs when several wood duck hens lay their eggs in one box. A normal clutch size for a wood duck is 10 to 12 eggs. A dump nest may have a clutch with as many as 40 or more eggs. Usually, none of the eggs hatch. To reduce this potential problem, researchers now recommend that boxes be placed out of sight of each other.
Boxes should be cleaned annually in late winter and new wood chips or saw dust replaced. Poles should be smooth wood or PVC, making it difficult for predators such as raccoons and arboreal black rat snakes to climb up to the nest box.
DNREC’s conservation efforts to protect wood ducks, screech owls and other native species is one of several initiatives of the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s Species Conservation and Research Program and is part of Delaware’s Wildlife Action Plan, which outlines a comprehensive strategy for conserving the full array of native wildlife and habitats in the state.
Plastic wood duck boxes are available to the public for $30 through the Division of Fish and Wildlife’s regional wildlife offices in each county. For more information in New Castle County, call Craig Rhoads at 302-834-8433; in Kent County, call Wayne Lehman at 302-284-1077; or in Sussex County, call Rob Gano at 302-539-3160.