Skip to Main Content

Find COVID-19 Information and Resources
TWRA Updates and Closures due to COVID-19

Wood Duck Nest Box

Wood Duck

Box Design for Wood Ducks

Wood Duck boxes should be constructed of natural wood as they resist heat build-up when measured against those constructed with non-wood materials.  Wood’s natural insulation properties protect eggs during hot, late season incubations.  Cedar lumber is recommended for durability.

Download Wood Duck Next Box Plans

* Use natural, uncoated wood such as cedar or redwood which are more durable than pine or exterior plywood.

* Use at least ¾ inch boards.

* The entrance hole should be 3 inches high and 4 inches wide, which will exclude most raccoons.

* You may consider raising the floor of the nest box ¼ inch up from the bottom of the box to prevent rotting. 

* Be sure to include a section of hardware cloth on the inside of the box below the entrance hole to act as a ladder for the young ducklings to climb out.

* Place a couple inches of saw dust or wood chips in the bottom of the box for nesting material.

 Use of a predator guard on the nest pole is recommended.

Wood-Duck-box-003

Box Placement

The location of the box should allow the hen easy access and flight path to the box.

It can be installed on land or over water within the forest. However, land-based boxes are advantageous because they can be monitored without boats or waders, and they eliminate worries about varying water levels. 

Do NOT place boxes in the middle of a pond or lake such that the boxes are not in the woods (see Egg Dumping below)! 

It is generally recommended that nest boxes should be placed at least 300 feet apart and should not be visible to one another. Do NOT place several boxes in close proximity in open water! 

We recommend placing boxes 30-100 ft from the waters’ edge in the woods, but boxes can be erected much further away from water.  The entrance hole should face water, especially when the box is within 30 to 150 feet of the shoreline. 

Make sure that the “path” from the box to the water is free from hazards for the ducklings (highways, street curbs, or wire fencing).

Your box should not be placed on a tree. For protection from predators, it should be placed at least nine feet away from a tree trunk and more than eleven feet from an overhanging branch.

Ideally, mount the box on an 8 ft. metal highway sign post, however 4 inch x 4 inch cypress, cedar, or treated wood post can be used. The metals poles are sturdy and have holes along their length to easily accommodate mounting of nest boxes.  Sink the post 2 feet into the ground so that the hole is 6 feet from the ground.

 A predator guard installed just beneath the nest box will prevent access to the box by predators like raccoons and snake and by nest competitors.  A metal, three foot diameter, cone-type guard is strongly recommended.

Hooded Mergansers may use Wood Duck nest boxes. Hooded Mergansers primarily breed in the western third of Tennessee, but are occasionally found nesting in middle and east Tennessee.

wood-duck-eggs

Egg Dumping

Artificial nesting structures are often mistakenly erected close together and in highly visible locations, such as the center of a pond. 

Clustering nest boxes in open areas was originally thought to be a positive thing for attracting high densities of Wood Ducks, however this is one of the worst things you can do for Wood Ducks. Clustered nest boxes results in egg dumping.

Egg dumping occurs when a female Wood Duck follows another hen to a nest site during the egg-laying period. The visiting bird is stimulated to lay eggs in the nest of the other hen.

Egg dumping is not typically a common phenomenon since Wood Ducks tend to not nest too close to each other when nesting in natural tree cavities.  A hen whose nest is dumped with too many eggs may abandon it.

Where egg dumping is out of control, hatch rates may drop to as low as 10 percent. Because of this, it is critical to locate nest boxes in isolated locations as described above.

Alternatively, if Wood Ducks are very rare in the area, it may be necessary to place boxes in open areas initially to encourage use, and then moving them to more secretive locations as the populations increase.

Box  Management

Cleaning a box is advisable as soon as possible after a hatch if you want to obtain an accurate count of the hatch numbers.

This also readies the box for a second use in the same season.

Cleaning your box by late summer or fall is recommended.

It should also be rechecked for winter damage just before egg-laying begins in the spring.

Wood-Duck-8

Box  Management

Cleaning a box is advisable as soon as possible after a hatch if you want to obtain an accurate count of the hatch numbers.

This also readies the box for a second use in the same season.

Cleaning your box by late summer or fall is recommended.

It should also be rechecked for winter damage just before egg-laying begins in the spring.