The wooded wetland forest around my home supports a variety of cavity nesting birds. The wood duck (Aix Sponsa), in particular, is a bird that searches out excavations or openings in trees where she can lay her eggs. Due to habitat loss and because the forest is young there is a “housing shortage” that does not offer adequate nesting location in old large trees. To assist the wood duck in finding shelter we continue to build and install many boxes. With the help of local scouts looking for Eagle Scout projects and NJ Fish and Wildlife we have been able to install over fifteen boxes within West Essex park adjacent to the Passaic River.
When we open boxes after the nesting season is complete there are a variety of surprises to find. Its common to have mice living in the substrate at the bottom, wasps building nests under the top of the box, screech owls in the winter months (and their pellets) and potentially even a flying squirrel although I haven’t experiences that yet myself. We hope to find shell membranes, pieces of eggshell, feather down and any other evidence of nesting or use of the box by Wood ducks. All findings are of note and are kept recorded in a journal with the box #. We also record the gps mark of each box, date of each observation, hole orientation, hole size, box height from water or land, if climbing wire is installed on the inner cover, and if a predator guard in installed.
While habitat protection is ideal as a primary means of protection of these cavity nesters, there currently exists limited shelter availability. When artificial nest boxes are placed in the best locations according to our citizen science research, the nest box monitor can effectively increase the population of a species and make it a common sight as it was many years before.