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February 2, 2009

Now best time to erect, refurbish wood duck boxes

The wood duck is the most important species to South Carolina waterfowl enthusiasts and is the only duck for which we can effectively manage production habitat throughout all geographic regions of the State.            

Construction and refurbishing of nest boxes can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience for anyone interested in a hands-on waterfowl conservation project.
           
The best time to erect or refurbish nest boxes is December through February. Find out more information on the construction of wood duck boxes.

All old nest boxes should be checked each winter prior to the nesting season to replace nesting material, check the tightness of the predator guard and secure the lid and screen door latch. Wood ducks do not bring material to a site to construct nests. They deposit their clutch of eggs in their own down feathers, dead wood, and other material in natural cavities. Provide three to four inches of material in boxes, such as wood shavings, to provide excellent nesting conditions. Old nests and those of invasive species such as European starlings must be cleaned out regularly if the boxes are to be used during a nesting season.

Nest boxes should be checked at least once a month during the nesting season. If a successful nest has hatched from a box, removing the old egg shells and nesting material and replacing the shavings will encourage reuse during the current nesting season.

Remember, federal law prohibits removing eggs of migratory birds from nests, without a permit.
           
When developing a wood duck box program on area, start with a few boxes initially and increase as local populations grow remembering not to over-saturate. It may take several years before the first box is used, or it may be used immediately. It is best to erect nest boxes in the shallow, permanent water of a marsh or pond having a good mix of open water and emergent plant cover.

Do not build or erect a wood duck nest box unless it will be protected from predators and placed in or adjacent to a suitable permanent water site. Poorly erected and seldom maintained nest boxes only invite wood ducks away from secretive natural cavities to where predators will destroy eggs, kill the nesting hen or both. The all-important conical guard placed below the nest box will protect it from climbing raccoons, rat snakes and other predators.

DNR protects and manages South Carolina’s natural resources by making wise and balanced decisions for the benefit of the state’s natural resources and its people.


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