Middle and high school students in the Fairfield Community School District have teamed up to build nesting habitat for wood ducks.
The students are building wooden boxes for the ducks so that mating pairs of adults will have a protective environment to lay eggs and rear their young. High school students in Robert Mitchell’s woodworking class used a saw to cut boards to length, which were passed onto Cory Klehm’s sixth-grade science class to be constructed into boxes.
The sixth-graders put the boxes together using nails, screws, a hammer and a drill. Last week, Klehm said eight of the 12 boxes planned had been built, and the other four should be finished this week.
The artificial nests will be placed in habitat suitable for wood ducks, such as ponds, wetlands and wooded streams. Klehm said the boxes will be installed in the next month.
The project came about during a meeting of the local Delta Waterfowl chapter, of which Klehm is a member. The group wanted to involve the community more, and specifically the youth, in promoting waterfowl habitat.
“The idea of involving high school/middle school students came up, and Mr. Rob Mitchell’s woodworking classes were immediately identified as a great resource,” Klehm said. “Mr. Mitchell and his students were more than happy to help. Without Rob and his class cutting the wood, this endeavor would never have taken place. It was a great collaboration between FHS woodworking class, Cedar Creek Chapter of Delta Waterfowl, local landowners, and FMS students.”
Fourteen middle school students built the boxes. The last step will be contacting landowners for permission to mount the artificial nests on their property.
Why build wood duck boxes?
Klehm said the reasons for building the artificial nests are many.
“Habitat is a huge factor in the success of all living things, and the wood duck is no exception,” he said. “Secondly, having an opportunity where adults and children are working together is very powerful and offers fabulous mentoring/relationship building. Lastly, in a time where our youth are not exposed firsthand to the wonders of nature, this project opens some great opportunities.”
According to deltawaterfowl.org, wood ducks are today among the most common waterfowl species, but at one point they were on the verge of extinction. In the late 1800s, waterfowl hunting was unregulated, and wood ducks were hunted year-round in some places.
Wood ducks use natural tree cavities for nesting, but as older forests were cleared, so too did the ducks’ habitat. The wood duck population plummeted, and by 1918, wood duck hunting was closed nationwide thanks to the passing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
In 1937, the U.S. Biological Survey tested the first wood duck boxes in Illinois, to see if the animals would take to the artificial nests. Fifty percent of the boxes were used in the first year. Today, wood duck boxes produce an extra 100,000 to 150,000 wood ducks each year in North America.
The Cedar Creek Chapter of Delta Waterfowl will hold its annual banquet Saturday, May 11, at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center. Doors open at 4:30 p.m., and dinner is served at 6 p.m.