Maryland Wood Duck Initiative - A Total Wetland Experience
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Best Practices Field Guide

MWDI will develop this section as a pragmatic field guide and reference resource on all aspects of nest box program management to help improve productivity.  Field observations indicate that over 65% of Maryland's nest boxes are in poor condition, not cleaned or monitored annually, have high predator exposure and/or are not effectively situated.

Wood Duck Sitting on Eggs in Nest Box

Topics will include: 

  • Box design & placement issues (clustering, visibility, and spacing)
  • Predator guard pro's & con's
  • Predator & competitor avoidance
  • Nest results' interpretation & productivity implications
  • Case study reviews - problems, tactics, strategies, results
    (See snake avoidance example provided below)

The goal is:


  To share the experiences of others


  To display summaries of relevant published research


  To communicate the results of MWDI's "cause & effect" studies

Content development for the Field Guide will evolve especially as MWDI completes each section of the Certification Program training manual.

Based on MWDI's 2005-2006 direct experience with over 300 of Maryland's public land boxes, the primary opportunities that substantially improved nesting performance using a Best Practices' approach were:

Box relocations, de-clustering  +30%
Improved housing quality    +10%
Starling deterrence, better predator guards  +30%
New capacity in better habitat  +30%

Best Practice Opportunities At a Glance...

Reduce Nest Strife & Abandonment

Improve egg hatch % - reduce nest dumping

Predator guards are critical

Guard is worthless if...

Must close all gaps to be effective

Case Study "Best Practices" Example
Snake atop Wood Duck Nest Box
Kent County
Typical predator control challenge -
"mature" box program
Two-year experience

Year 1 - snake gets all eggs despite repair to guard and gap foamed before nest season. Vegetation "ramp" (no longer existing) is believed to have allowed snake access above the guard.

Year 2 - pre-nest season, vegetation around guard removed, 5 ft+ snake still wins, gets full egg clutch.  Guard is about 28" off the ground at its lowest point.

Intended Solution  = get guard 4 ft off relatively   hard marsh and vegetation free ground. Given the age of the box, guard and inflexibility to lift it, however, a new box and guard will be installed at desired height at the same location to see if the snake (probably the same one) can be defeated in year 3!!

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This page updated on February 13, 2009