By Bruce Urben, WWA President
This article originally appeared in Wisconsin Waterfowl Association’s March, 2023 Newsletter edition.
Sunday, February 19th was the annual “wood duck box cleanout and maintenance” day at WWA’s Abrams project property located in southern Oconto County. Clear sunny skies and temps in the high 30’s greeted our Green Bay Chapter volunteers on the property.
23 wood duck boxes were installed on the Abrams property over 15 years ago on the property’s ponds and scrapes. The Green Bay Chapter volunteers manage the property and supply their time and talents in maintaining the wood duck boxes. This year a number of boxes needed replacement and maintenance. WWA also collects and tabulates wood duck hatch data each spring from their members who have installed WWA boxes. For more information on our data collection, you can contact our Habitat Committee chair, B.J. Grassmann at 920-428-6543.
The old nesting materials were removed from each box, including hatched egg shells, unbroken eggs, songbird and raptor nests and vagrant mouse nests. Fresh cedar wood chips were placed in the boxes to prepare for the hen’s return in 4-6 weeks! All of the Abrams boxes are placed over open water, which adds to the hatch success (less predation) and better chance of chick maturity.
2022 was a very successful hatch at the Abrams property with 12 of 23 boxes (52%) having broken wood duck eggs and several more were found with unhatched eggs, usually indicative of egg dumping or failed re-nesting. The hatch rate is approximately 10% higher than in 2021!
February and early March is a great time to get out to clean out and maintain your wood duck boxes. There is still ice on the ponds and most of the other bird nesting has concluded. Placing 3-5 inches of clean wood chips (not sawdust) in each box provides a welcome site to the returning hens. Research has shown that a large percentage of wood duck hens return to their same nesting sites each year. Ducks have a very precise navigation system built into their system, which is remarkable. Based on current weather trends, 2023 could be an early return for these cavity nesters. Don’t be late in welcoming them back!
A big THANK YOU to Green Bay Chapter volunteers Jeremy VanSistine, Doug Steiner, Jesse Nickels and his son, Logan Sincoular and his daughter, along with several visitors! We couldn’t do it without you!
Assembled wood duck boxes and kits are back in stock and available for sale in our website store. Get yours before they are gone.