You still have time to erect nesting boxes for wood ducks to help the returning waterfowl.
Early March is a good time to put up one or more wood duck nesting boxes in a yard or area, even if the spot chosen is a block or two from a stream, pond or lake. Because migrating wood ducks are still arriving the third week of April, it may be OK to get a nesting box up even that late.
Russ and Sandy Rippberger, who live on the edge of Bass Creek in Brooklyn Park, have 40 wood duck nesting boxes on or close to their half-acre yard.
They said March 12 is the average date for the first wood ducks to arrive at their place. It was Monday this year. Last year, the first arrived March 6. Two males and one female arrived about 8:30 a.m., and five minutes later the female wood duck was up on one of the nesting boxes and looking in. By March 29, Russ counted about 55 wood ducks having returned. Many were going in and out of nesting boxes. Each year more than 90 percent of their boxes produce a brood of ducklings.
The ideal height for a nesting box is 12 to 15 feet up on a tree or pole, with the entrance facing out into an open area. Predator guards can help keep wood duck houses from becoming raccoon feeding stations. Nesting boxes on poles over water should be about 6 feet above surface.
The gentile wood duck is regarded as one of the most beautiful birds. It’s always a thrill to see a pair in a pond. They winter in Missouri and south to the Gulf states and into Mexico. The waterfowl was almost wiped out about 1900 owing to overhunting and habitat destruction. Protective laws, nest box programs and conservation have helped them rebound.
Jim Gilbert taught and worked as a naturalist for 50 years.