Student Led Wood Duck Box Partnership Helps
Northern Wisconsin Waterfowl
BY TED KOEHLER, ASHLAND FWCO
The Construction Team – Left to Right: Front Row: Hunter Shira, Eva Hayes, Gavin Hayes,
and Danielle Browne. Middle Row: Allison Phillips, Eleesa Kline, Kevin Grand, Hanna Fiorio
and Allison DeRose. Back Row: Ted Koehler, Lucas Harguth, Sarah Moodie,
and Dalton Lebada. Dogs: Standing in for FWS Construction Team leader Glenn Miller is
his Labrador Zeek and furry friend Jim. Credit: Glenn Miller
Wood ducks were possibly the most abundant duck east of the Mississippi River before European settlement, but clearing of mature forests, market hunting, and year round shooting led to drastic declines in this migratory bird’s population. Regulation, habitat restoration and management projects such as wood duck box programs have helped the wood duck make a great comeback over much of its range.
Northland College’s student chapter of the American Fisheries Society (AFS) and other natural resource program students were interested in partnering on a project with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to benefit local resources. Kevin Grand, Northland’s AFS chapter president, worked with staff from the Service to develop the wood duck box building project. He coordinated 16 volunteers to help spend a Saturday building 30 boxes that will be placed on wetland habitat restoration projects.
“It is great that Northland College students can work with staff from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on things like this wood duck box building project,” said Kevin. “There is a lot of great energy here at the college, and the more that can go into great projects that help migratory birds like wood ducks and other fish and wildlife, the better off the whole area will be from a natural resource standpoint”.
“The kids were absolutely awesome” said Glenn Miller, a biologist with the Service who helped organize the box building. “They gave up a Saturday of their time, and then some of them went out and skied the six plus mile Book across the Bay that evening”.
Wood ducks lay their eggs and incubate them in tree cavities, but will readily accept artificial structures. They also have a high tendency to return to the same nesting area year after year. When the ducklings hatch their mother flies down and starts to call for them to follow. The little ducks, born with special toes for climbing, follow their mothers call and crawl to the opening of the natural tree cavity or box. They then leap out, sometimes more than 100 feet, and float to the ground. Wood ducks currently nest in the area and the additional nest sites will benefit the local population. Spring is still weeks away here in northern Wisconsin, but soon wood ducks will be winging their way to the Chequamegon Bay area. This year and for many more to come, they will have some extra places to call home.