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Ducks Unlimited produces valuable landowner resource

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From the green timber swamps of southwestern Ontario to the tidal estuaries of the maritimes, a new field guide is being used by landowners across Eastern Canada.

Ducks Unlimited, along with conservation agency partners, have recently completed the guide, which is designed to assist landowners in the important task of using nest boxes on their property.

The booklet, entitled “Nest Box Guide for Waterfowl,” provides detailed instructions for building, installing and maintaining nest boxes.

According to David McLachlin, biologist with Ducks Unlimited: “The booklet has many purposes; its main use is as a tool to highlight and showcase the value of wetlands and also to provide practical information on wood duck nest box programs.”

“It is our hope that this booklet may facilitate and crystallize people’s interest in wetlands and encourage them to get actively involved in the habitat. Nest box programs provide a wonderful multi-generational activity that can be very educational for children,” he added.

Rather than nesting on the ground, several species of waterfowl nest high up in holes, or cavities, in trees. They are referred to as cavity nesting ducks, of which the wood duck, common goldeneye and hooded merganser are the most common.

Appropriate cavity nesting habitat sites are a fundamental requirement for maintaining and increasing the populations of these three waterfowl species.

They typically nest in abandoned woodpecker holes or natural tree cavities created by disease, fire or lightening.

Unfortunately, human impacts on the forest have reduced the availability of suitable trees, thereby limiting nesting opportunities.

Artificial nesting cavities such as those provided by nest boxes can help offset this problem by increasing the number of available, secure nesting sites for these waterfowl.

Ideal habitat for next boxes are generally shallow, flooded beaver ponds and flooded wooded areas along streams, lakes, rivers and marshes. Nest boxes tend to have the highest use when placed in permanently flooded swamps, among standing trees.

Another section of the guide provides information to help landowners identify which wildlife species have used the nest box, from waterfowl and an array of other birds to mammals such as flying squirrels and even insects.

Full-colour photographs of next remains and photos of bird eggs are provided in this handy, waterproof, pocket-size guide. The guide sells for $9.95 and can be obtained by calling Ducks Unlimited at (705)721-4444 (ON) or (504)458-9921 (NB).

The guide was funded by Ducks Unlimited Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment Canada through their involvement in the Eastern Habitat Joint Venture of the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

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