As spring arrives, wood ducks seek places to nest. Their preference for tree cavities in swamps limits their choices. So people help out.
One of those people is Jerry Richardson, 38, of Wendell. The Raleigh firefighter teams with lifelong friend and Raleigh surveyor John Lowdermilk, 37, of Wendell to build and sell nesting boxes for wood ducks, which nest in North Carolina while other species fly to the Prairie States and Canada.
“We saw there was a little bit of a market,” Richardson said. “It was hard to get your hands on quality boxes that were built like they needed to be built.”
The market isn’t big, but for the people who enjoy putting out duck boxes on swampy property, “it’s a real good conservation project,” Richardson said. “A lot of duck hunters like to do it. It’s a good way to give back to the resource.”
Placed on a pole and protected from raccoons and black snakes by a circular guard, the $40 box is made of rot-resistant cypress, which avoids the health hazards of chemically preserved wood and can last 10 to 15 years, Richardson said.
A vertical rectangular box with a hole near the top mimics a hollow tree. The hen lays 12 to 15 eggs that hatch after 30 days. About 24 hours later, the ducklings climb to the hole, then leap out, said Eugene Hester, 82, of Wendell, who has studied wood ducks for 60 years and maintains more than 50 boxes.
“Female wood ducks tend to come back to where they hatched or where they grew up, … even to the same pond,” said Hester, who wrote the books “Wood Duck Adventures” and “World of the Wood Duck.” “… Their young tend to come back to the same area. Once you get the nests going and they are successful, the hens will tend to come back.”
Often the No. 1 duck species taken by N.C. hunters, the wood duck also appeals to anyone who likes to look at birds.
“Most people consider the wood duck the most beautiful of all our ducks,” Hester said.
To purchase a box, contact Richardson at 919-291-6504 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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