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Watch inside a duck's nest box

Watch and learn about the wood ducks and hooded mergansers using nest boxes installed by a DUC volunteer in New Brunswick—and see newly hatched ducklings!

April 16, 2021

When ducks started to return to New Brunswick this spring, last year’s DUC Volunteer of the Year John Johnston got ready. He checked the nest boxes he installed on his property and at the DUC Fredericton office, he tested the cameras he installed inside the boxes, and he watched for potential nesters. Wood ducks and hooded mergansers were milling around the nearby wetlands and checking out the boxes. Then, in mid-April, a wood duck hen claimed the nest box at the DUC Fredericton office and laid her clutch of eggs.

Captured on nest-box camera

The ducklings have hatched inside this wood duck’s nest box, including a goldeneye duckling—the result of  a practice known as interspecific brood parasitism, in which a goldeneye hen “dumped” an egg in with the wood duck’s clutch.

This footage is being captured by John Johnston, last year’s DUC Volunteer of the Year, near a wetland at the DUC Fredericton office. Follow DUC Atlantic on FacebookTwitter and Instagram for regular updates and find earlier videos from this nest box on YouTube from May 7, May 5, May 3, April 24, April 20, and April 15.

Another duck in residence

Shortly after the first nest box was occupied, a hooded merganser hen prepared her own nest in the box on Johnston’s property. Watch below for a look inside.

Follow DUC’s national accounts on FacebookTwitter and Instagram for regular updates from this nest box and find earlier videos from this nest box on YouTube from May 15, May 5, May 3, April 26, April 19 and April 16.

About wood ducks and hooded mergansers

Johnston managed these same nest boxes last year and watched as wood ducks and hooded mergansers both took interest. The two species are regular nesters near wetlands in New Brunswick, and don’t always get along (as Johnston witnessed in 2020, when a hooded merganser evicted a nesting wood duck to lay her own eggs).  

Wood Ducks

  • Are cavity nesters, choosing sheltered chambers like tree hollows and nest boxes, typically 10 – 60 feet high.
  • Will produce 6-16 eggs in a clutch.
  • Will engage in brood parasitism, depositing their eggs in other wood ducks’ nests, to be raised by that nest’s hen.
  • Typically incubate their eggs for 28-30 days.
  • Jump from their nesting cavity within 24 hours of hatching, called to come down by their mother.
  • Are dabbling ducks that eat mostly seeds, acorns, fruits and invertebrates.

Hooded Mergansers

  • Are also cavity nesters, drawn to nest sites similar to those used by wood ducks.
  • Will produce 5-13 eggs in a clutch.
  • Also engage in brood parasitism, leaving eggs in the nests of wood ducks and other mergansers.
  • Incubate their eggs for 26-41 days.
  • Jump from their nesting cavity within 24 hours of hatching, called to come down by their mother.
  • Are diving ducks, able to dive for food as soon as they leave the nest.

Though the two nest boxes in this story have been claimed by wood ducks and hooded mergansers, the most commonly observed ducks in our New Brunswick nest box program are common goldeneye.

DUC’s Atlantic and Ontario teams offer nest box stewardship programs, including videos on how to build, install and maintain them. Visit our Nest Box Resources to connect with us and learn more.

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