MWDI Mission and Background

Mission Statement

Our objectives are 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 the merits of a “best practices” approach in managed nest programs.


Performance HighlightsMWDI’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 95 public project sites in 2015. More than 1,800 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.

Performance DetailsBox 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’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 and provides website hosting services and support. MWDI provides all labor and administrative support for its volunteers and utilizes tool shops and equipment provided by certain companies.

Funding support for our lumber purchases the past several years has been primarily from the Chesapeake Chapter of the Safari Club International as well as Toyota through the Field & Stream magazine’s 2012 Heros of Conservation Program and certain purchases by the Patuxent State Park and other site specific projects where lumber costs have been reimbursed.

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 with Phoenix Metals. See: Predator Guards For Sale - $14 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.

MWDI collaborates with numerous private nesting programs supporting them with cost effective materials, habitat inspections and program advice / analysis. A less formal tabulation of duckling production is generally maintained by MWDI at this time to maintain a sense of Maryland’s overall nesting program contribution ot nesting pairs and the fall flight from Maryland. Based on these estimates and USF&W data on Maryland’s wood duck population (based largely on band recovery data),

Nesting ResultsMWDI believes that the percentage of Maryland’s wood ducks that are sourced from artificial nesting programs is well above the averages of other states in the Atlantic and perhaps Mississippi Flyways. Nationally, an estimate of 3-5% is routinely used to reflect nesting program contributions. In Maryland, if USF&W data are accurate, the figure may exceed 30%. This relationship is examined as more federal data becomes available.

Further, it is MWDI’s current view based on our production trend figures, that the increased harvest limit for wood ducks to 3 daily, has not had a prolonged negative impact on wood ducks as moderate gains have now been recorded the past two years after a larger gain in the second year after the limit was raised. In the first year, MWDI noticed a moderate drop in production and we were concerned about the lasting effect of this change. These perceptions have changed but may not be definitive. We consider our trend information to have an increasing validity given the scope of the program relative to the inherent limitations of other production data and their interpretive analyses.

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.

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 nests have been found in every county where woodies nest. The annual use varies in the aggregate for reasons we do not understand other than possible weather related influences.

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

Youth ActivitiesMWDI’s role in youth oriented activities continues annually. These activities involve all aspects of nesting program resource management. Several internships have occurred, field trip / nest box inspections have been involved in addition to our collaboration on numerous Eagle Scout projects. Periodic school presentations have occurred and we support 4-6 box assembly events each year.

MWDI will be pleased to try and develop a youth oriented activity for your school or organization if appropriate internal mentoring support can be provided in conjunction with such activities. Contact Cliff Brown to discuss particulars.

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.

Contact Us

To add your name to the MWDI E-mail list for periodic notification of website updates, reports, and activities, please send an E-Mail request to:

Cliff Brown
Executive Director
Maryland Wood Duck Initiative
3021 45th St NW
Washington D.C. 20016
Phone: 703-447-5142 (cell)