SFA DU Chapter Makes An Impact For Wood Ducks

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On Saturday, February 17th, Stephen F. Austin’s student chapter of Ducks Unlimited went out to the Alazan Wildlife Management Area located in Nacogdoches County, Texas.

They did maintenance on the wood duck boxes on the property. S.F.A’s chapter has been around since 2017 but they recently became more active in 2021 as student involvement increased. Just like the local chapters, their purpose is to “ educate the public about the need to conserve North America’s wetlands.”

The chapter does various projects to help give back and promote conservation, but their main projects include wood duck maintenance, duck banding, and a Ducks Unlimited Banquet that they plan and host.

Students learned about the importance of maintaining these boxes, how to maintain them, and why they are a vital component to conservation of wood ducks and other cavity nesting species. Graduate student and president of the chapter, Brittany Zwahr, says “In the three years that I have been a part of this chapter, I can honestly say that last year was my first time seeing evidence of nesting from mergansers, and finding hatched egg remnants this year confirmed it.”

This just goes to show that these boxes are beneficial for multiple cavity nesting species. She says that, “maintenance on these boxes helps to remove wasp nests and spiders which in turn helps increase nesting activity at these sites.”

Wood ducks are very common in East Texas, but can be found in many states throughout Eastern North America. Although they are a common sight when trolling down the river now, this was not always the case. In the early 1800s wood ducks were a common sight, but by the late 1800s there were few and far between.

This once common, beautiful species had almost reached the point of extinction, but not for the reason you might be thinking of. Although hunting played a large role in the diminishment of this species, there was another factor that wasn’t as obvious to the public. As people began to settle the land, more and more of America’s bottomland hardwoods were being destroyed. Sustainable forestry was not a term that had crossed anyone’s mind. Wood ducks primary nesting habitat is hollowed out tree cavities, which is found in bottomland hardwoods. Between the loss of their habitats and overhunting, wood ducks became scarce.

Thankfully in 1918, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act was placed into action. Wood duck hunting was prohibited nationwide, and it stayed that way up until the populations made an outstanding recovery. The hunting ban was lifted in 1941. Many people like biologists and groups like Ducks Unlimited continue to promote the conservation of these species. Duck bands are used to help keep track of population numbers alongside wood duck boxes. Wood duck boxes are an artificial way to imitate the natural habitat of these birds. The boxes have a hole that mimics the cavity inside of a hardwood that they would normally nest in. Conservation efforts from groups like Ducks Unlimited have had a lasting positive impact on this species that is continuously evident in their population numbers.

Amber Borel


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