Nesting Ducks!

My good friend and neighbor Jay is a naturalist (or something; he likes fish and wildlife). He partakes in the Audubon Christmas bird count every year. His  neighbor  (wait, isn’t that me? no the other neighbor – Jon) is another bird guy.  Anyway, Jon gave Jay a duck box to attract a pair of ducks who might want to raise a family. Last weekend (March 3, 2012) Jay put the duck box up in a tree in the green space behind his house in a place where Carla and I can enjoy it.

Here’s a view of the duck box from our deck

Duck box in the green space behind our hose

And a close up showing how small the  hole is for the entrance. Apparently the ducks aren’t very graceful in their approach; they pretty much just blow in head first.

A duck house

Within a day he had a guy duck hanging around checking out the neighborhood. It blew my mind. First, I didn’t realize ducks lay eggs in boxes on trees, and second I didn’t realize that ducks hang out in trees. Carla and I were having breakfast Sunday when she saw something hanging out in the trees. I grabbed the camera and took a few shots without being to see the subject very well.

A duck checking out the neighborhood
A cropped and enhanced close up of the duck

I posted the pics on Facebook and told Jay, who told Jon. I got this great information back:

Congratulation!  You are the proud surrogate parent-in-waiting of a handsome wood duck!  And in less than 24 hours?  That is remarkable,

Watch the box closely from 7:00-7:30 for tha hen to be entering and exiting the box while she lays the eggs—one each morning for 8-10 days until she has her clutch and sets to incubate them. It only takes 5-10 minutes for her to lay each egg, after which she will fly off with the drake for another 23 hours.

Once she sets on the eggs, the timetable will reverse for 28 days while she incubate for 23 hours each day, and flies off in the late afternoon to feed and exercise during the warmest time of the day.  During the incubation period, you may see the hen return at sundown, escorted by the drake, until she is safely back on the nest.  Then he will return to the pond behind Dale’s house, to pass out cigars and hang out with the boys until she returns again the following afternoon.

The hatch will come 28 days after the hen sets on her eggs, and the ducklings will bail out of the box in the mid-morning.  So we will have plenty of time before that happens to clear the brush from the base of the nesting tree, and define a path through the greenway to lead the hen and ducklings to the stream.

If you are able to get pictures even half the one you forwarded today, you will have captured a magical moemnt.  Please keep us updated!

Today Jay saw a couple of female wood ducks checking out the box but being a little upset by a squirrel who was squatting. Jay reported his findings to Jon and he gave us this update

Glad to know there is plenty of interest in your new duck condo.

Nancy Cox [another neighbor] has also reported ducks going in and out of her nest box, which is mounted in the SW corner of her backyard, about 20 feet up in a douglas fir tree, and visible from the sidewalk by our mailbox.  She sent a picture to Chelsea took on Monday, showing the interested tenants striking a deal with their realtor and banker .

But don’t worry too much about the squirrel—it is too late in the season for them to be nesting. It was probably just enjoying a warm bunk for the night, and was awakened by your new tenants wanting to move in.

I had (at least) 55 wood ducks and four mallards at one point this morning in our backyard.  It cost me three pounds of corn to get that count—which is a record number of woodies at one time—and confirms my fears about the critical shortage of available housing units in our neighborhood.

With the weather forecast warming to 60* this week, the hens will start laying their eggs any day now.  So keep watching, and your cameras fully charged!

Jon also sent along this picture of the ducks in his back yard.

I’ll post additional updates and pics if we get them. I may try to put up my own box in the next week or two if it isn’t too late.

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