Wood Duck Program

Research in wetland forests has indicated that suitable nesting cavities for wood ducks are very limited. Current timber management practices in the southeast U.S. dictate that cavity densities will increase only slowly, if at all. Consequently, populations of wood ducks in the southeast, including Louisiana, may be limited by the number of suitable nesting cavities.

The Waterfowl Program initiated a wood duck box program in 1990 and currently manages over 2,750 nesting boxes. Boxes are mounted on pipe, donated by oil companies, with sheet metal predator guards and installed primarily on LDWF WMAs and also on select private wetlands, state parks and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers properties. Boxes are placed in or proximal to wetlands with good brood habitat in an effort to increase survival rates of young.

Waterfowl Program personnel work with a network of 25 LDWF biologists and specialists that check boxes at least twice/year to monitor annual production. Data from nesting boxes are computerized and summary reports developed. This program is increasing local breeding populations of wood ducks and increasing use of our WMAs by wood ducks. Hooded merganser nesting in boxes is also increasing on some WMAs. Program personnel conduct interagency wood duck workshops in conjunction with federal and state wildlife personnel to provide updated information and techniques to program participants. Personnel also work with university staff to facilitate wood duck research projects.

Wood duck population monitoring is difficult due to the bird's use of densely vegetated habitats. Banding is the primary tool for sampling wood duck populations and provides important information for management. Banding data, when combined with population and harvest data, also provide vital information on the life history, population status and ecology of wood ducks. LDWF typically bands nesting hens while checking nesting boxes, and all captured birds during the pre-hunting season period (July-August). The number of wood ducks banded each year, but over 1,700 have been banded the past 2 years, and Louisiana has banded more wood ducks since 1990 than any other southeastern state.

The preseason banding program is directed toward "local" wood ducks to obtain management information specific to wood ducks from Louisiana and the southern part of the flyway, including the recovery distribution, recovery rates, and survival rates. These data, along with reproduction data help to assess the affect of harvest on wood duck populations.