Maryland Wood Duck Initiative - A Total Wetland Experience
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B&W illustration of wood duck nest box

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MWDI Background

MWDI Background

MWDI’s mission is to enhance Maryland’s Wood Duck population and to generate a greater appreciation of the wetland habitats in which they live by advocating and demonstrating a “Best Practices” approach in artificial nest box programs. Educational and other youth oriented activities which complement the “Total Wetland Experience” are increasingly being incorporated into our projects.

Beginning in late 2004, this all volunteer effort has made some notable strides. Field operations began in Kent Co. at the Eastern Neck Federal Wildlife Refuge, Chesapeake Farms – Dupont’s conservation property and at MD DNR’s Millington WMA. Since then, MWDI’s scope has grown to 85 public project sites in 2012, up from 20 during the 2004 nest season. More than 1,700 boxes are now involved on these sites and a Best Practices resource management approach is now either in effect or being implemented at each participating site.

Box capacity on public sites has grown more modestly despite the increase in project sites as many old boxes are being replaced to upgrade housing quality or removed from existing sites to de-cluster the program design so that productivity can be enhanced. Strategic placement (re-locations) and predator protection have also being upgraded. As a result, productivity of each functional box has been substantially improved and further gains are expected.

MWDI Nesting Results

MWDI’s statewide collaborators are currently the MD Dept of Natural Resources’ Wildlife & Heritage Service (MD DNR), the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USF&W) and Ducks Unlimited, Inc. (Collaborating Partners). Many other wildlife and conservation organizations are directly involved in MWDI’s efforts and collaborate in a variety of ways. MWDI has received exemplary cooperation and support of many Federal, State and County organizations and their employees. Currently, more than 100 organizations and private program sponsors are participating.

Funding & Operational Support
MWDI does not seek dues. MWDI has obtained project funding for materials from more than 20 different sources whose mandate it is to support wildlife conservation and from others who wish to sponsor box building affairs. MWDI has a multi-year Partnering Agreement with MD DNR’s Wildlife & Heritage Service which provides among other things, funds to pay for predator guard metal and related box building and mounting hardware as well as website support. MWDI provides all labor and administrative support for its volunteers and utilizes tool shops and equipment provided by certain companies.

Recent wood purchases have been made possible by donations from Field & Stream Magazine and Toyota in conjunction with their Heroes of Conservation program and the selection of Cliff Brown as a 2012 Finalist. The Chesapeake Chapter of the Safari Club International is also a strong supporter as are the Chestertown Wildlife Exhibition & Sale and the Patuxent State Park Jug Bay 5 K Run among others.

Used street sign poles are salvaged with cooperation from the MD State Highway Administration at various locations. Predator guard supply has been cost effectively arranged and a sole source now established via the Maryland Waterfowlers Association. See: Predator Guards For Sale - $15 each.

Annual Nesting Survey of Maryland's Public Lands
Each year, MWDI publishes the nesting results from its public sites. Detailed analyses of these results are included on the website and private program sponsors are encouraged to compare the productivity of their sites to various public sites where box numbers and habitat might be similar.

A MD DNR / MWDI joint survey to identify all Maryland nest boxes was initiated in September 2012 . The goal is expand our empirical data base and to use the data to develop improved perceptions about the validity of USF&W estimates and methodologies. See: MWDI Seeks Nesting Data on all Maryland Nest Box Programs.

2004-2011 Nesting Results 7 Performance Highlights

An important feature of the Public Lands Survey has been to identify and quantify the other desirable “Creatures” that use artificial nesting structures intended for wood ducks. A conservative 12% use was documented.  With the exception of screech owls, these nest box occupants are often supplemental users and not typically direct competitors.

MWDI - Other Creatures - Nest Box Use

Hooded Merganser Nests Located
MWDI volunteers documented 34 hooded merganser nests during the 2006 nest season, which were submitted to the Breeding Bird Atlas Survey. This data uniquely confirmed a substantial increase in the nesting range for these birds. Since then, hooded merganser nests have been confirmed in two new Maryland counties.

Various research projects have been initiated which will increasingly become statistically significant over time. The re-cycled Freon canister nesting program and use of horizontal nest boxes as starling deterrents are examples.

Youth-oriented Activities
As the slide below indicates, MWDI’s role in youth oriented activities has been growing. The nature of these activities involves all aspects of nesting program resource management. Several internships have occurred, numerous and ongoing nest box inspections are involved scout projects, school presentations, box assembly events. A major educational project has also been recently initiated – the development and publication of a pragmatic, picture based training manual. Peer review is expected to start in late 2013.

Youth Activities

Internships for five high school individuals have been managed and a temperature study on Freon canisters was conducted by another student on behalf of MWDI. Presentations to various schools and collaboration with others on their respective field programs have occurred. MWDI has also arranged with the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) to provide a one year free subscription to NWF’s award winning children’s magazine, Ranger Rick, to all MWDI youth volunteers. See our various Activity Reports for current highlights of youth oriented events.

Private Wood Duck Program Support
One of MWDI’s ultimate goals is to leverage the Best Practices results demonstrated on public sector projects into privately managed artificial nesting programs since there are “thousands” of these boxes. The productivity upside is large if all of these programs will adopt a Best Practices approach. Cooperation and active collaboration with private programs is growing. Data collection to demonstrate the gains achieved from better quality boxes, predator guard protection, re-locations, inspections and cleaning is not available for public discussion at this time. Progress has been significant and may exceed that portrayed in MWDI’s public survey results.

MWDI assists private programs in many ways. Site inspections, project evaluations and tactical advice have been routinely provided to more than 100 projects. MWDI aggregates lumber orders between public and private programs to obtain excellent wholesale cedar prices for both parties and then obtains volunteer labor to cut up the boards into kits at no charge. Occasionally, MWDI has arranged for kids to make the kits into boxes for certain programs who pay the kids for this service. At other times, when MWDI has obtained a small supply of used boxes that do not conform to our program designs, we have given them to private sponsors to repair and utilize in good habitat.

In early 2008, the J.M. Tawes Technology & Career Center fabricated 29 boxes which MWDI helped sell to private programs. Funds received by Tawes will now support a 50 box program available to the private sector in the fall of 2009 – the selling logistics for which MWDI will handle for Tawes. Predator guard supply has been cost effectively arranged and a sole source now established via the Maryland Waterfowlers Association. See: Predator Guards For Sale - $15 each. Our primary limitation is time in helping private program sponsors but many of these individuals are also some of our best volunteers.

While MWDI’s website,, has many content areas to more fully develop, we hope you get a good perception of our direction and intent from what is currently on display.

Visit MWDI on FaceBook. Here you can add photos and comment on your project or experiences in the field. Click on link below to access:

Maryland Wood Duck Initiative (MWDI) on FaceBook

For more information and to get on the email distribution list, contact Cliff Brown, Executive Director, at or call at 703-447-5142.

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