A mystery never fully explained: Where are my wood ducks?

  • Article by: BILL MARCHEL SPECIAL TO THE STAR TRIBUNE
  • Updated: June 15, 2013 - 4:47 PM

The ducks appear to be avoiding nesting boxes on the author’s land.

hide

A wood duck and ducklings.

Photo: Bill Marchel • Special to the Star Tribune,

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

– Last week, a brood of 1-day-old wood duck ducklings — 11 in all — leapt into life from a wood duck nesting box I placed on my acreage located a few miles south of town.

It was gratifying to know I had provided a safe haven for the hen wood duck while she had spent the past 30 days or so incubating her clutch.

But all was not rosy on the Marchel property.

Of the 13 nesting boxes I monitor on my land, the hen wood duck occupied one of only four boxes being used. Two of those boxes were occupied by hooded mergansers, the other by a hen wood duck. Last spring only five of my wood duck nesting boxes were used.

During a typical spring about eight or nine of my boxes are occupied. We all know this spring, weather-wise, was far from typical. My ponds were ice covered into early May. Was that the reason for my lack of occupied nesting boxes? Is the fact that the Minnesota’s wood duck bag limit was raised from two birds daily to three starting in 2011 a reason. Or does the fact the duck hunting season in Minnesota has opened a week earlier the past two seasons, resulting in a higher kill of local wood ducks, have an effect on the number of birds returning in the spring?

I realized, of course, two years of limited nesting of wood ducks on my land is no reason to jump to conclusions of any kind. Some research was in order.

My first contact was Roger Strand, of New London, Minn. Strand has placed and maintained wood duck nesting boxes dating to the early 1950s. He is the editor of Newsgram, a publication produced three times per year by the Wood Duck Society. Strand monitors about 100 wood duck nesting boxes in the New London area and is known nationwide as an authority on wood ducks.

“Despite the late spring thaw, about the only change I’ve noted this spring is wood duck nesting is about three to four weeks behind,” Strand said.

His wood duck box occupation rate over the years is about 85 percent, including some used by hooded mergansers.

“That’s about where we’re at this year,” Strand said.

Strand is taking a wait-and-see attitude about whether or not the move to a three wood duck bag limit in 2011 will affect the percentage of nesting boxes that are occupied in spring. He believes the early opening date might be more of a factor, since a portion of local nesting wood ducks vacate the state as soon as the weather cools in September.

“The early opening date definitely results in more local wood ducks in the hunting harvest,” Strand said. “But I have not seen a reduction in nesting box use, at least in my area.”

Steve Cordts, waterfowl staff specialist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, says the timing of the thaw was very unusual and led to wetland conditions that vary widely across the state. That might account for variable wood duck nesting box use this spring.

Cordts said the wood duck harvest figures for the 2012 hunting season are not in yet, but he did have the figures for the 2011 season.

“In 2011, the first year we allowed hunters to take three wood ducks daily, the harvest went from around 80,000 wood ducks in years prior, to roughly 150,000, nearly double the pervious years.” Cordts, like Strand, believes the early duck opener likely is more of a factor in the higher wood duck harvest than the three bird daily limit.

Cordts added a wood duck harvest of 150,000 in not unprecedented.

“We had wood duck harvest numbers in the 180,000 range during the late ’80s and early ’90s,” said Cordts, who stressed wood duck harvest nationwide is within federal harvest goals, which are set to maintain a sustainable wood duck population.

So, the mystery as to why most of my wood duck boxes stood empty this spring remains unsolved. The rivers, streams, and ponds in the Brainerd area are full to the brim and have been since the thaw. Hopefully, as Cordts noted, that’s part of the puzzle.

Regardless, later this summer I plan to move a few of my nesting boxes that, for whatever reason, were not occupied the past two springs.

And hope for better luck in 2014.

 

Bill Marchel, an outdoor writer and photographer, lives near Brainerd.

 

  • related content

  • Wood Duck duckling is calling as it is about to leap from entrance to wood duck nesting box.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Yankees 0 Top 6th Inning
Toronto 2
Detroit 3 Top 5th Inning
Chicago WSox 6
Chicago Cubs 0 Top 2nd Inning
St. Louis 0
Cincinnati - A. Simon 3:05 PM
Pittsburgh - V. Worley
Minnesota - K. Gibson 6:05 PM
Baltimore - C. Tillman
Philadelphia - J. Williams 6:10 PM
NY Mets - B. Colon
Miami - J. Cosart 6:10 PM
Atlanta - A. Harang
Boston - A. Webster 6:10 PM
Tampa Bay - J. Odorizzi
Cleveland - T. Bauer 6:10 PM
Kansas City - J. Shields
Detroit - K. Ryan 6:10 PM
Chicago WSox - C. Bassitt
Texas - R. Ross Jr. 6:10 PM
Houston - S. Feldman
Colorado - T. Matzek 7:10 PM
Arizona - V. Nuno
Chicago Cubs - T. Wada 7:15 PM
St. Louis - M. Gonzales
Los Angeles - Z. Greinke 7:40 PM
San Diego - I. Kennedy
Milwaukee - M. Fiers 8:05 PM
San Francisco - J. Peavy
Oakland - J. Samardzija 8:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Washington - S. Strasburg 8:10 PM
Seattle - R. Elias
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 3rd Qtr 1:23
UAB 38
(7) UCLA 28 4th Qtr
Virginia 17
Western Mich 21 3rd Qtr 5:46
Purdue 30
(5) Ohio State 20 3rd Qtr 1:15
Navy 14
Appalachian St 7 4th Qtr
Michigan 49
Ga Southern 17 3rd Qtr 6:55
NC State 10
Boston College 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
West Virginia 2:30 PM
(2) Alabama
Rice 2:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
(10) South Dakota St 2:30 PM
(24) Missouri
Fla Atlantic 2:30 PM
(22) Nebraska
California 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Marshall 2:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
UC Davis 3:00 PM
(11) Stanford
Arkansas 3:00 PM
(6) Auburn
(16) Clemson 4:30 PM
(12) Georgia
Liberty 5:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Ohio U 5:00 PM
Kent State
Louisiana Tech 6:00 PM
(4) Oklahoma
Idaho 6:00 PM
Florida
Stephen F Austin 6:10 PM
(20) Kansas State
Fresno State 6:30 PM
(15) USC
Southern Miss 6:30 PM
Miss State
Texas-El Paso 7:00 PM
New Mexico
North Texas 7:00 PM
Texas
(1) Florida State 7:00 PM
Oklahoma State
(14) Wisconsin 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 3:00 PM
Seattle
New England 4:00 PM
Toronto FC
Columbus 6:30 PM
Montreal
FC Dallas 7:30 PM
Chicago
Real Salt Lake 9:30 PM
San Jose
Portland 9:30 PM
Vancouver FC
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Chicago 6:00 PM
Indiana

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Grade the Gophers in their season opener

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close