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Wood ducks get spiffy new nests

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Winnipeg wood ducks are enjoying new homes along the Assiniboine and Red rivers thanks to some helpful volunteers at FortWhyte Alive.

The 20 to 25 volunteers build, restore, and record activity at over 100 different wood duck nests around the city on riverfront properties.

"The volunteers go out with their little books that they carry every year and record whether there were any eggs in it, get rid of nesting squirrels that have decided that they want to live there, and make it fresh and new for the wood ducks when they come back," said Sharyl Eaglesham, volunteer resources managers at FortWhyte Alive.

Though wood ducks are hardy birds that will eat anything to survive, they are picky when it comes to their nests. 

Wood ducks, unique among their counterparts, traditionally nest in dead hollow trees in forests. Barret Miller, special projects interpreter, said those dead hollow trees can become hard to come by.

"By the ’70s their numbers were in real trouble right across North America," Miller said. "There was just no place for the females to raise little ones.

"Females are super loyal to their nesting spot," Miller said. "So if one year it’s there and the next year someone bought the property and it’s gone, no little ones."

The boxes are made of wood with wood shavings inside, mesh for the ducklings to climb up, and a hole big enough for the mother to fly into said Eaglesham.

 Volunteers hang them approximately 12 feet off the ground because once the eggs are hatched, the ducklings will jump out of the entrance, bounce on the ground, and run into the water right away. Miller said wood ducks have been known to nest up to 80 metres up a tree.
"Nature’s really tough on them," Eaglesham said.

To put up the wood duck boxes volunteers need permission from property owners along the city’s rivers. To let residents know, they distribute flyers door-to-door. To have a box installed by volunteers, property owners must then purchase a FortWhyte Alive Naturescape membership.  The membership forms are available at fortwhyte.org/membership

For more information on wood ducks there will be an information session at FortWhyte Alive Sun., March 16 at 1 p.m.



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