The Outdoor Journal by Kyle Carroll
If you have spent any time outdoors in the last couple of weeks, you may have noticed that one of Missouri’s most beautiful residents has returned. The Wood Ducks are back. Pairs of wood ducks are now looking for nest sites along our creeks and ponds. Our only cavity nesting ducks have paired up and are settling in for a new season.
According to MU Extension, “Thanks to conservation efforts, the wood duck population has rebounded from low numbers in the early 20th century. Unregulated sport and commercial hunting in the spring contributed to the population decline, as did the conversion of wood ducks' habitat into other land uses.
Passage of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 protected many species, including wood ducks. Hunting was restricted from 1918 through 1941, while waterfowl biologists and landowners increased research and management efforts. The development of nest boxes, which provided wood ducks with artificial cavities for nesting, along with the establishment of regulated hunting seasons, have been key to helping increase wood duck populations across their range.”
The wood duck's breeding range extends over much of North America, from Nova Scotia west through Canada and from northern portions of the United States south to Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. Although wood ducks can be found year-round in southern Missouri, most migrate south in the fall and return to breed in February and March as temperatures warm. The first wood ducks that return to Missouri usually arrive in small flocks. In March and April, their statewide population is at its high point, as the spring migrants join birds that have stayed through the winter, and male and female pairs begin to nest.
Wood ducks readily accept nest boxes if erected in a good location. You can find nest box construction plans in the Missouri Department of Conservation's Woodworking for Wildlife publication, available from MDC or at one of their regional offices. The Northwest Regional Office number is 816-271-3100.