Wood Ducks

Wood ducks live throughout Virginia's swamps and wetlands. They are secretive birds that often seek areas of flooded timber and woody vegetation.

Most wood ducks hatched and raised in Virginia migrate south to the Carolinas, Georgia and Alabama. A few birds will remain in Virginia during mild winters.The lack of suitable nest cavities will affect distribution of breeding wood ducks in an area.

Photo: Wood Duck

A combination of downed timber, woody and herbaceous emergent plants, interspersed with small openings of surface water, provide ideal year-round habitat. Vegetative cover should always exceed 50% of the surface water area. Loafing sites are required throughout the area for preening and sunning. The sites should be open for good visibility, surrounded by water and near escape cover. A minimum of 10-15 sites per surface acre is needed. Logs, stumps, muskrat houses, and tussocks are good examples of loafing sites. Competition for available cavities, predation, and food availability will limit wood duck production.

Several wood duck nest box designs and styles are available today.The most important items to remember when setting-up nest boxes are:

  1. all nest boxes should be placed on posts or trees and MUST have predator guards installed. Cone-shaped guards fashioned from sheet metal are acceptable. Placing 6" PVC pipe over the post also works well. Make sure any small openings around the guards and/or pipes are completely blocked off to prevent snake predation.
  2. nest boxes may be placed at a density of one box per acre of quality habitat.
  3. nest boxes should be located over or very near water.
  4. locate nest boxes within or adjacent to quality brood habitat.
  5. nest boxes MUST have fresh wood chips or wood shavings placed in every box each year. Discard old nest material and replace with new material before February 1st each year. Do not use hay, straw or sawdust.

Additional Information

  • Wood Duck from the U.S. Geological Survey
  • Spring Wood Duck Boxes. Information from Ducks Unlimited.
  • Ecology and management of the Wood Duck. Bellrose, F.C. and D.J. Holm. (1994. Stackpole Books, Pennsylvania). This book is generally regarded as the ultimate reference source on wood ducks.