Wood ducks, Barrow’s goldeneyes, common goldeneyes, hooded mergansers, common mergansers
and buffleheads are all cavity nesting ducks. They build nests in abandoned woodpecker holes
or natural tree cavities caused by disease, fire or lightning. These ducks will also use a constructed
nesting box. Here are plans for a nest box that you can build, install and maintain. The design,
which is used by the Ducks Unlimited Greenwing program, may even attract other cavity nesting
birds such as kestrels, tree swallows, great crested flycatchers or screech owls.
Cedar is ideal*
Cedar lumber is recommended because it is naturally resistant to weather and insects. You can
also use any materials you have available such as pine or plywood. The box pictured uses 10.5 linear
feet of 1" X 10" (3/4" thick by 9 1/4" wide) lumber that is rough on one side (for the inside of the box).
*Ducks Unlimited staff in the interior of British Columbia indicate that plywood boxes better withstand the
region’s temperature extremes.
Ducks Unlimited does not recommend applying a finish to cedar boxes. A finish might help to
extend the life of a plywood box.
If you decide to apply a finish to your nest box, use a nontoxic wood preserver or a light shade of
an earth tone paint. The ducks will find your box by seeing the contrast in color caused by the
entry hole. Do not apply finish inside the box.
Cavity nesting ducks do not carry nesting materials. It’s important to help them out by placing
four to six inches of wood shavings in the bottom of the box. You can find wood shavings at your
local pet or farm supply store. Do not use sawdust. It can suffocate ducklings.
Every year, in the fall after the nesting season has completed or in the winter, clean out old nesting
material from the box and replace it with a fresh layer of wood shavings. This annual cleaning
needs to be a part of your long-term maintenance commitment once you place your nest box.
Build a duck