To restore Winnipeg’s dwindling wood duck population, FortWhyte Alive initiated the Wood Duck Project in the early ‘70s, deploying approximately 100 nest boxes along our city’s waterways.
"The wood duck’s habitat was and still is under attack," Minna Goulet says, co-ordinator of FortWhyte Alive’s Naturescape program.
"Riverbank forest is being cleared. People like to have their yards quite tidy. They like to clean up all the dead trees that have fallen and also the dying trees, and that is where the wood ducks need to nest. They were having trouble finding nesting spaces, so we initiated the Wood Duck Project where we actually go to the properties of riverbank residents and install these nesting boxes for the birds. The ducks take to them really, really well."
The wood duck is distinguished by its striking white stripes, red eyes and iridescent green, blue and bronze plumage. Female wood ducks are less colourful, but do have stunning white rings around their eyes. The birds nest in tree cavities near water. They don’t make their own cavities, but rather try to find existing holes. That’s where the boxes come in.
Goulet says there are currently 80 to 90 nesting boxes out there, built, installed, cleaned and maintained by FortWhyte Alive staff and volunteers. She says since the program was implemented, Winnipeg’s wood duck population has stabilized, but adds that it’s always under constant threat because of the continual clearing of riverbank brush and deadwood.
"The Wood Duck Project is part of the Naturescape program and that’s a backyard habitat program where we’re encouraging people to let their yards return a little more to their natural state in order to increase biodiversity," Goulet says. "The more plants, trees and shrubs you have, the more animals you can encourage to live on your yard."
Goulet notes that the wood duck boxes also attract eastern screech owls. If you’re interested in increasing the biodiversity of your backyard, you can join the Wood Duck Project online at www.fortwhyte.org/membershipapplication or phone FortWhyte Alive at 204-989-8355.
Also, on Saturday, March 16 at 1 pm at FortWhyte Alive (1961 McCreary Rd.) there will be a Wood Duck Project information session led by FWA site manager Ken Cudmore, who has around 20 years experience with the program. Admission is free. Pre-register by calling 204-989-8355.