Wood Duck Society

The Dump Nest

Welcome! This page is a catch-all for miscellaneous items of interest to society members. You might see articles, photos, tips and notices of area events in this space. You're welcome to submit items to share with others.  The contents of this page will change,  so check back  to stay updated.

To submit items please email us.

The Wood Duck Society 30th Annual Meeting 2016 features US Fish and Wildlife Service expert Tom Cooper.

The Wood Duck Society Annual Meeting will be held a Wargo Nature Center in Centerville, MN on Saturday April 2, 2016. Doors open at 9:00AM for sign-up and registration. The meeting will start promptly at 9:30AM.  This annual meeting is open to all, Society members, the general public and/or anyone who just loves wood ducks and wants to learn more about them. We urge you to bring a friend. Admission is free. Our annual WDS membership is available for a mere $20 and includes the subscription to the ever popular Wood Duck Newsgram. Before and during the meeting, there will be a Silent Auction, where you can bid on some fabulous wood duck/wildlife items. Checks and credit cards are accepted [ we are all unpaid volunteers and all silent auction proceeds and membership fees support the WDS Newsgram and wood duck related events and activities].  Last year’s meeting was a great learning experience and this year will be no different.

The morning program will be hosted by US Fish and Wildlife Service expert, Tom Cooper. Tom will speak about this year's 100th Anniversary of the 'Migratory Bird Treaty Act' followed by talks on wood duck banding and Sand Hill cranes. This is sure to be an event you won't want to miss. Following Tom's presentation, there will be a short break.  Next up is the ever popular open forum for you to ask questions and share your stories.  At noon we break for lunch. The WDS will offer from an assortment of sandwiches, fresh potato salad, cookie and choice of beverage, including water or pop.    We ask for a $5 donation per lunch to help us offset the cost.  The afternoon session follows with a  video session upstairs featuring great wood duck movies. Most include video from inside and outside nest boxes and  tree cavities.  No doubt you will learn more and have more questions for our experts.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Directions to Wargo Nature Center shown below

Make plans to attend now. Mark you calendar today!

Please do not call Wargo Nature Center for WDS information or questions.

Please contact us on our website at: www.woodducksociety.com

Below is a Map to the Wargo Nature Center.

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Wargo Nature Center
7701 Main Street
Lino Lakes, MN 550

The Starling Dilemma

By Roger Strand

Starling on guard duty at the next box. A challenge for a hen wood duck.

A recent visitor to this website left the following question:  “How can you discourage starlings from taking over a wood duck house?  I have had wood ducks nest in the yard, but in the last few years, the starlings have literally jumped on the wood duck hen as she tried to enter the nest box.  Is there some sort of trap I could use?”  The questioner is not alone in his dilemma.

 Starlings can sometimes effectively wipe out wood duck production in local areas.  They are cavity nesters, and compete aggressively for the use of nest boxes.  Since their introduction from Europe in 1890, starlings have spread all across the country to completely overlap the range of the wood duck.  They are an alien species and are not protected by law.

In Ecology and Management of the Wood Duck (Stackpole Books1994), authors Bellrose and Holm concluded:  “Of the many species of animals competing for nest boxes, starlings provide the greatest threat to wood ducks.”

Most starling interference with wood duck nesting occurs during the prospecting and egg-laying phases, when the hen is only present for a short period each day.  Starlings may make small puncture holes in woodie eggs when the hen is away.  They commonly will bury the duck eggs under several inches of the coarse plant materials they use in constructing their own nest.

When the wood duck hen returns, she is often attacked by the starlings, now defending their new turf.  At times they will gang up.  Art Hawkins, pioneer waterfowl manager, once reported seeing eight of these birds harassing a hen, several of which affixed themselves to her back, riding her to the ground while pecking at her head.

Searching for preventative solutions, Don Helmeke experimented with innovative box designs, but full-fledged success remained elusive.  Another Wood Duck Society member, in desperation, tried to repel starlings by hanging rubber snakes near his boxes-- it didn’t work.  To be successful, the wood duck manager must go into an attack-and-destroy mode, directly targeting the offending starlings.

Traps, specifically designed to fit inside a wood duck house, have been found to be effective.  George Wellenkotter lives in a serious Wisconsin starling belt.  He developed an in-box trap for his own use which utilizes a spring mechanism to close a trapdoor, effectively capturing the starling inside the box.  George manufactures these and offers them for sale.  One customer trapped 500 starlings over a period of five years!   You may contact George at 309 Randolph Street; Edgerton, WI  53534.

To supplement his trapping efforts, Wellenkotter once tried hanging dead starlings—voodoo fashion—around the boxes. Sad to say, this seemed to have no effect on the remaining live birds.

Shotguns and rifles have been effective in some rural settings, but it’s not as easy as it may sound.  On my own unit in West Central Minnesota, starlings have presented only spotty problems, nearly all related to boxes located near our farmstead buildings.  I employ an effective but time consuming method of control, using .22 caliber birdshot ammunition.  The gun is fired from a tent blind set up twenty feet or less from the box (you must be very close.)  Enter the blind before dawn, pour a cup of coffee, and wait for the offending starlings to arrive.  They may perch near the box at first, which makes it easy.  If they enter the box, they will eventually reappear for guard-duty on the edge of the hole—a fatal habit in this scenario.  The fine birdshot won’t really harm the box, in contrast to a blast from a shotgun.

The use of gunfire and traps must be coupled with mechanical removal of starling nests whenever encountered.  After nest removal, the female may desert the box, particularly if she had begun incubating (or recently hatched) her clutch of greenish blue, speckled eggs.

Like wood ducks, starlings have an instinct to return to a previously successful nest site.  Therefore, as in other aspects of box management, regular monitoring is necessary—this time to avoid a string of successful starling hatches.

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