Keeping house for the ducks

DSC_0255bWood ducks, goldeneyes, mergansers and buffleheads are all cavity nesting ducks – which means they build nests in abandoned woodpecker holes or natural tree cavities caused by disease, fire or lightning. When there are few natural tree cavity nesting sites to choose from, constructed nesting boxes are a welcome site. But there’s a catch. For the people who install them that is. It’s a long-term commitment of doing some regular housekeeping. When you put up a nest box you are committing yourself to maintaining that box.

Late winter is the best time to install nest boxes to attract cavity nesting ducks in the spring. It’s also the best season to clean and maintain them, which involves removing old nesting material, tightening loose hardware, and adding new wood shavings. Maintenance is important for three very good reasons:

1.     So the ducks come back!  Studies have shown that there are more nests, eggs and ducklings produced in clean nest boxes that in those not cleaned of old nesting material. Since wood duck hens tend to return to places where they successfully nested in the past, it makes sense for them to prefer reliable, clean places to hatch their young.

2.     Reduce disease risks Removing old nesting material reduces the likelihood of Myiasis infection – a parasitic maggot that poses no threat to humans but that can infect newly hatched ducklings. Myiasis can infect other bird species using the box as well. Removing the old nesting material rids the box of overwintering pupae and reduces risk of infection in newly-hatched birds in the spring.

3.     Help with waterfowl conservation Maintaining and inspecting nest boxes and submitting survey cards (where this monitoring program is in place) helps DUC and other organizations determine waterfowl success and direct future conservation efforts.

With great responsibility comes great reward. When ducks find a good nesting site, there is a very good chance they’ll return in following years. Want to know more about building, installing and maintaining your own nest box? Click here: ( Also check out our new YouTube video series below for instruction on proper assembly, installation and maintenance of your nest boxes!

If you’ve received a nest box kit from DUC then watch this video to learn how to attach the box and predator guard system to the poles:


This video provides information on how and where to install your nest box:


The final video in the series goes over proper maintenance and monitoring of your nest box:

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