Student Research Projects

Impact of Nest Box Design and Placement on Brood Parasitism and Usage by the Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)

Student Wanda Morris, '05
Faculty Mentor(s)
Department Environmental Studies
Course BIO 489: Research in the Natural Sciences


Nest boxes have been successfully used by wildlife managers to enhance populations of wood duck (Aix sponsa), however there is disagreement as to the best strategies for the design and placement of these boxes. We examined 9 years of nest box data (N = 902 box-years) from Mackay Island National Wildlife Refuge, North Carolina, to examine potential impacts of nest box design (single vs. duplex boxes), habitat type (open vs. mixed), nest hole direction and distance to the nearest box on dump nesting and nest box use. Contrary to our hypotheses, dump nesting was not higher in duplex boxes or in open habitats, as compared to single boxes and mixed habitats, respectively. Boxes in open habitats were used significantly more than boxes in mixed habitats, and nests with a higher clutch size had a lower percentage of eggs hatching, as expected. The distance to the nearest box and nest hole direction both had no significant effect on dump nesting rate or box usage. Nest box use across years ranged from 55-83% of boxes, and dump nesting rates ranged from 3-29%, with a marginally significant trend (p=0.057) toward higher parasitism during years with a higher proportion of nest box usage. Our data indicate that visibly placed nest boxes are more effective at promoting wood duck use without increased rates of dump nesting. However, other studies have shown that well hidden boxes deeper in the forest can effectively reduce dump nesting.


Wanda Morris, Maynard Schaus, Kendall Smith, and Tim Cooper. 2006. "Impact of Nest Box Design and Placement on Brood Parasitism and Usage by the Wood Duck (Aix sponsa)". Presented at the 60th Annual Conference of the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies, Nov. 2006, Norfolk, VA.