Wood Ducks – Highlight Of The Nesting Season

By Bill Helmer, County Coordinator for Marshall, Nemeha & Washington Counties (Kansas)

In the spring of 2001 a pair of wood ducks came looking around our yard and trees. They looked around for 2 or 3 days and then disappeared.

The next year they showed up at our house again and checked out the trees again. A neighbor told us he had a duck nestbox he had never got put up and we were welcome to have it. We put the box in a large Cottonwood Tree about 15 to 20 feet from our back door…about 12 to 15 feet above the ground on a limb. But, no ducks in 2002 or 2003.

This April when we returned from our winter home in Texas, we were lucky enough to receive one of BAN’s wood duck nest boxes. When I went to put up the new box, I noticed a little ladder inside. I couldn’t remember seeing one inside the older box so I made a “ladder” to add to the box already in the tree. When I climbed into the tree and took the side door off, I was surprised to find the nicest mat of duck down. It was smooth and very neat. I lifted the edge and saw all those eggs. I patted the nesting material back down after I counted 18 eggs.

I checked the nest about every ten days. We would see the wood duck fly into the tree but we were never lucky enough to really get a good look at her. When hatching time came, we kept a close watch but missed seeing the ducklings leave the nest. When I looked into the nesting box they were gone. There were three eggs that didn’t hatch — two eggs had fully developed wood ducklings with all their markings, but they were not strong enough to get out of the shell and one egg was not fertile.

We spent the afternoon looking by the pond and creek but no luck – we didn’t find any ducks. I cleaned out the box and put in some clean wood chips for next year. VERY EXCITING!

Originally printed in Bluebirds Across Nebraska Newsletter BANner Volume 11 Number 3 Fall 2004