Wood Duck

On Mother’s day we were checking tree swallow nest boxes along with a few wood duck boxes and were very fortunate to find a clutch of wood ducks that was actively hatching!

The nest box contained 19 eggs and four were piping. The young probably "jumped" the next day.  We checked later and 15 of the 19 eggs hatched. This is the first time we have found a piping wood duck egg.

The MAS wood duck project took off in 2006 with 42 nest boxes. Last year, volunteers monitored 221 nest boxes in Columbia, Dane, and Jefferson Counties! The majority of the wood duck work is conducted in winter by volunteers when nest boxes are erected, repaired and cleaned out. Mark and Jenny McGinley have been active for many years and monitor boxes at Otsego Marsh, Erstad Prairie, and Anderson, Jackson and Schoeneberg Marsh Waterfowl Production Areas.

Mark and Jenny (above) reported their 2015 nest box results and said that both Anderson and Jackson had the best results since they began the monitoring, while Schoenberg had its 2nd best year, and Otsego the best year since 2010. They also had a record year for membrane counts with the results “20% better than the previous best and 50% better than the average for the last six years.” They counted 333 membranes in 32 boxes that contained hatched nests.

Wood duck membranes look like flattened ping pong balls. The number of membranes in a box can give an estimate of the minimum number of young hatched, though mice, overwintering in the box, can reduce the number of membranes.

  Photo by Richard Armstrong

Photo by Richard Armstrong

Overall, we had 133 successful nests of wood ducks, 9 of hooded mergansers and 6 with woodies and hoodies. If we figure that on average 12 young hatch in the wood duck clutches and 9 young hatch in hooded merganser nests then in 2015 around 1,759 ducklings hatched from our nest box program. All of our nest boxes contain predator guards and this greatly reduces predation by raccoons. See the table below for more information.

Dump nests are where more than one female lays eggs in a nest box. At Otsego Marsh Mark and Jenny found a nest box with 20 hatched wood duck membranes and 3 hooded mergansers. They also found 3 boxes with 28, 32, and 40 wood duck eggs with that were not incubated. These high numbers of eggs per box could indicate that more nest boxes are needed at Otsego Marsh.

We received a call on May 9th from a person who had a female wood duck and 13 young in their garage in the middle of Poynette. He requested out help and an hour later we rounded up the female and young. We had a basket for the young and quickly learned how adept they are at climbing and escaping. Some ducklings escaped up to three times! Once we had them rounded up, we placed the ducklings with their mother and released them at our Wildland property near Rio. The last we saw of them was the female with her ducklings close behind heading to cattails.

MAS has a waterfowl viewing blind at the far east end of the wetland at Otsego Marsh. Richard Armstrong was photographing wood ducks this spring and wrote “Attached is an image of a wood duck with a leg band.  First wood duck I’ve seen that was banded out of the many hundreds that I have photographed.” Boots are needed to access the blind.

Special thanks to our nest box monitors and photographers! 

Hopefully you can visit some of the areas this summer where our boxes are and be treated to seeing broods of woodies and hoodies!

By Mark and Sue Foote-Martin, Resident Managers, Goose Pond Sanctuary; wood duck photo by Richard Armstrong