Boxes provide wood ducks places to nest

CorrespondentMarch 18, 2014 

With a metal guard to ward off raccoons and black snakes, a pole-mounted box in a swamp will be home to a wood duck hen and her eggs.

PHOTO COURTESY OF JERRY RICHARDSON

As spring arrives, wood ducks seek places to nest. Their preference for tree cavities in swamps limits their choices. So people help out.

One of those people is Jerry Richardson, 38, of Wendell. The Raleigh firefighter teams with lifelong friend and Raleigh surveyor John Lowdermilk, 37, of Wendell to build and sell nesting boxes for wood ducks, which nest in North Carolina while other species fly to the Prairie States and Canada.

“We saw there was a little bit of a market,” Richardson said. “It was hard to get your hands on quality boxes that were built like they needed to be built.”

The market isn’t big, but for the people who enjoy putting out duck boxes on swampy property, “it’s a real good conservation project,” Richardson said. “A lot of duck hunters like to do it. It’s a good way to give back to the resource.”

Placed on a pole and protected from raccoons and black snakes by a circular guard, the $40 box is made of rot-resistant cypress, which avoids the health hazards of chemically preserved wood and can last 10 to 15 years, Richardson said.

A vertical rectangular box with a hole near the top mimics a hollow tree. The hen lays 12 to 15 eggs that hatch after 30 days. About 24 hours later, the ducklings climb to the hole, then leap out, said Eugene Hester, 82, of Wendell, who has studied wood ducks for 60 years and maintains more than 50 boxes.

“Female wood ducks tend to come back to where they hatched or where they grew up, … even to the same pond,” said Hester, who wrote the books “Wood Duck Adventures” and “World of the Wood Duck.” “… Their young tend to come back to the same area. Once you get the nests going and they are successful, the hens will tend to come back.”

Often the No. 1 duck species taken by N.C. hunters, the wood duck also appeals to anyone who likes to look at birds.

“Most people consider the wood duck the most beautiful of all our ducks,” Hester said.

To purchase a box, contact Richardson at 919-291-6504 or ncduckbox@gmail.com.

Jordan Lake Cleanup: The Haw River Assembly’s Annual Clean-Up-A-Thon will be held Saturday. Volunteer registration starts at 9 a.m. at the Robeson Creek Boat Ramps in the Jordan Lake State Recreation Area near Pittsboro. Learn more at www.meetup.com/HelpCleanJordanLake.

New boss: Newly promoted to colonel, Jon Evans on Monday became leader of the Division of Law Enforcement, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission said. A ceremony is scheduled for March 24 at the historic State Capitol in Raleigh.

Comment sought: The N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries will accept comments through March 28 as it begins a mandated five-year review of the N.C. Striped Mullet Fishery Management Plan. Email Jason.Rock@ncdenr.gov or Casey.Knight@ncdenr.gov.

Turkey season: Spring turkey season runs April 12 to May 10. The youth season runs April 5-11. Learn more at www.ncwildlife.org.

Send news and announcements to outdoors@newsobserver.com.

Boggess: boggess.teri@gmail.com Twitter: @BoggessT

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