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Baby Wood Duck (above left), Aix sponsa, and Nest Box (right)

Bluebirds aren't the only species that take to artificial nestboxes. Wood Ducks, Aix sponsa, also occupy fabricated structures in and near wetlands across a breeding range that historically covered all the eastern half of the U.S. and has now expanded considerably (see map below).

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center
Wood Duck distribution map courtesy Terry Sohl, sdakotabirds.com

For more natural history information about Wood Ducks and occupants of their boxes at Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History, see our archived photo essays at Nice Weather for Ducklings (2003); Wheeping! Bird In A Wood Duck Box: Great Crested Flycatcher (2006); Midsummer Bluebirds And A wood Duck Mystery (2010).

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

A quick-and-easy plan for making Wood Duck nest boxes that involves all right-angle cuts is shown below. Use rot-resistant rough-sawn white cedar or cypress if possible. Locally harvested and milled Eastern Red Cedar can also be used and makes for a very aesthetic, long-lasting structure if you can get planks wide enough. After making the box, erect it following these instructions below.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

  • Although Wood Ducks will nest in natural cavities up to a mile from water, the hen leads her ducklings on foot to the closest water after they depart the nest box; thus, it is better to have the box at or close to a pond, lake, stream, or river.
  • Place the nest box about 15' off the ground on the main trunk of tree near water.

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

  • For pond placement, place the box on a 4" x 4" treated wood pole driven into the ground at least 6' from shore so that the bottom of the box is about 4' above water level; a 2"-3" galvanized pipe can also be used. In either case, a cone-shaped galvanized metal predator guard is strongly recommended (see photo above).
  • Place the box where it can be monitored and cleaned easily by ladder or from a boat, keeping in mind that pond water levels can vary by several feet season to season and year to year.
  • Don't place more than one nest box per half-acre of pond or dump-nesting may occur, with several females placing eggs in a box that never gets incubated.
  • Not later than mid-January each year, replace any faulty hardware or cracked wooden panels. Make sure the roof is still intact and shedding water. Clean our each nest box and place a fresh 4"-deep bed of wood shavings in the bottom.
  • Remember that just because you are trying to attract Wood Ducks does not mean you should discourage other native cavity nesters that may use the box, including Eastern Screech-Owls, woodpeckers, Great Crested Flycatchers--even chickadees, bluebirds, and wrens. (Feel free to evict non-native European Starlings or House Sparrows.)
  • If you use these plans and/or attract Wood Ducks to your nestbox, send us an e-mail and photo(s) at RESEARCH. Please also consider making a contribution in support of Wood Duck conservation efforts at Hilton Pond Center.

NOTE: Drill several 1/4" holes in bottom of box to allow for water drainage

All text, maps, charts & photos © Hilton Pond Center

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Hilton Pond Center for Piedmont Natural History is a non-profit research & education organization in York, South Carolina USA; phone (803) 684-5852. Directed by Dr. Bill Hilton Jr., aka The Piedmont Naturalist, it is the parent organization for Operation RubyThroat. Contents of this website--including articles and photos--may NOT be duplicated, modified, or used in any way except with the express written permission of Hilton Pond Center. All rights reserved worldwide. To obtain permission for use or for further assistance on accessing this Web site, contact the Webmaster.