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.
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 – Corteva’s conservation property and at MD DNR’s Millington WMA. Since then, MWDI’s scope has grown to more than 120 public project sites in 2021. Approximately 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.
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. In recent years, we have also begun to eliminate various project sites for logistical and low performance issues in certain sectors.
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 on our Home page.
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.
MWDI 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.
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 conducted. The use of re-cycled Freon canisters proved to be effective in shaded environments especially. The use of horizontal nest boxes as starling deterrents was tested….it works! although program sponsors like traditional nesting structures which are more readily available than these types.
MWDI’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 supported 4-6 box assembly events each year until recently with the pandemic causing us to now use individual students seeking to fulfill community service hour requirements.
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 continue to grow. Data collection to demonstrate the gains achieved from better quality boxes, predator guard protection, re-locations, inspections and cleaning is not as available as our public data, but we believe the results have been very gratifying to almost all private program sponsors who adopt a best practices approach.
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 for kiln dried cypress between public and private programs each year to obtain excellent wholesale prices from a mill in South Carolina. MWDI has arranged for fully assembled boxes to be available at substantial discounts to those being offered commercially which are also significantly lower quality. For those wishing to cut and/or assemble boxes, their cost is the same as MWDI obtains. MWDI does not buy/sell any supplies. Recently, MWDI has obtained the participation of the bluebird community and hundreds of these nesting boxes have been generated. About 100-150 private program boxes are assembled each year.
To add your name to the MWDI E-mail list for periodic notification of website updates, reports, activities and volunteer opportunities, please contact:
Maryland Wood Duck Initiative
3021 45th St NW
Washington D.C. 20016
Phone: 703-447-5142 (cell)