The refuge has a wood duck nest box program that has been active since 1988. Currently, there are around 156 boxes available each year. The vast majority of these boxes are in the Duck River Bottoms area with a few boxes located on several farm ponds on the Big Sandy Peninsula.
All boxes are checked and maintained on at least an annual basis. A total of 40 boxes are checked monthly to provide more accurate data relative to the number of times a box was used during a season, number of eggs laid, and number hatched, etc. Use rates and success rates have varied somewhat over the years with the last five years averaging 66 percent used by wood ducks, 10 percent used by hooded mergansers, 68 percent successful wood duck nests, 73 percent successful merganser nests, 493 wood ducks produced, and 97 mergansers produced. Even though predator guards are used on all boxes 30 percent of the nests are predated, with woodpeckers being the most common culprits.
Wood Duck Nest Box Study
During the summers of 2004 and 2005 the refuge was a study site to examine the differences in nesting success, dump nesting, nest predation, blood parasites, and hen stress levels to box location. The study was conducted by a M.S. student in the Biology Department of Murray State University. Boxes were placed on the Duck River Unit, Cross Creeks NWR, and Fort Campbell Military Reservation during February 2004. Box placement was as follows: five locations with four clustered boxes (each box entrance hole visible from the other boxes) and ten isolated boxes, totaling thirty boxes per study area. Each of the boxes were checked once weekly. Blood was drawn from the hens to determine parasite and stress levels.
Wood Duck Banding
Tennessee NWR bands more wood ducks that any other refuge within the Southeast Region and possibly in the entire refuge system. Annually, the refuge bands an average of 925 wood ducks. All wood ducks banded on the refuge are captured in a trap constructed in 1987 and located at the Duck River Bottoms. This trap was rebuilt in 2007 by refuge staff. Each year the refuge has to meet a banding quota and enters the banding information into the Bird Banding Laboratory’s Band Manager database.
With the large numbers reliably captured at this station the refuge has been requested on several occasions to serve a larger role than just meeting a banding quota. The refuge has hosted several banding workshops to train TWRA and Service banders within the state. For the last two years the refuge has participated in the reward band study that is designed to reevaluate the band- reporting rate since the advent of toll free number at the banding lab. In 2004, USGS biologists took blood samples to test for the presence of West Nile Virus as part of a larger study to evaluate the pathology of the virus in five species of waterfowl. Each year the refuge holds several events that serve as an educational opportunity for friends members, youth groups associated with conservation oriented organizations and university wildlife classes. Numerous individuals from the local communities also get exposure to the refuge through assisting with the wood duck banding program.