Wood Duck Banding and Nesting
A pilot wood duck volunteer program began in 1998. That first year, volunteers baited and maintained brood traps. Also in 1998, the Eagle Bluffs staff received permission from the City of Columbia to trap and band wood ducks on the wastewater wetlands, a series of shallow wetland cells dominated by cattail and duckweed. This type of habitat provides an enormous amount of quality brood-rearing areas for local wood ducks.
In 1998, the volunteers helped trap and band 224 wood ducks . Their efforts were key to achieving this high number.
More good news for the wood duck volunteer program followed in 1999. That's when a large increase in the number of volunteers enabled the Eagle Bluffs program to include rocket netting to augment the already successful brood trapping.
Rocket netting uses rockets to propel nets over birds attracted to baited areas. After a net has been fired over the birds, the volunteers secure the net, remove the birds and bring them to a biologist who determines each bird's age and gender before banding it.
An abundance of volunteers made rocket netting possible, but this capture technique also opened the door for a whole new age group of volunteers, specifically kids. Rocket netting is less strenuous for both volunteers and wood ducks. It's also a great parent/child activity because parents and youngsters work directly with the birds. Brood traps, in contrast, require little contact with the birds.
Thanks to the addition of rocket netting, volunteers and area staff banded 386 wood ducks in 1999.
Along with its benefits for volunteers, 1999 also was beneficial to wood ducks. That year, seventh- and eighth-grade students of Saint Peter's Catholic School in Fulton established a nest box program on Eagle Bluffs. The students built and installed nest boxes as part of their science and math curriculum.
In the winters of 2000 and 2001, we hosted wood duck box installation days. On these days, the students from Saint Peter's Catholic School arrived in vans and pickup trucks loaded with wood duck boxes, ladders, wood chips, predator flashing and tools. The kids were excited. In addition to learning about wood ducks and other waterfowl and wildlife, they did something positive for the environment.
In 2000, volunteers and area staff banded 366 birds. In 2001, we banded 359 birds. In 2002, volunteers and area staff banded 213 wood ducks. We also relocated several wood duck nesting boxes to more suitable locations.
About 40 volunteers now participate in the nest box maintenance and banding seasons. Nest box maintenance takes place in mid to late February, when the area hosts "Volunteer Nest Box Day." Under sometimes harsh conditions, volunteers and area staff clean and refill 121 nesting boxes with fresh wood chips and inspect boxes to determine if any repairs are required.
The real fun takes place from July 1 into early September when the banding takes place.
Without the volunteers, the wood duck nesting and banding program wouldn't be nearly as successful as it is. The Eagle Bluffs volunteers are the backbone of our efforts to band more than 300 wood ducks each year.
Data received from band recoveries helps the Conservation Department make decisions that ensure the majestic wood duck will be around for future generations to enjoy.
In today's hustle-and-bustle world, it's refreshing that so many people selflessly give up their free time to volunteer for conservation. The Eagle Bluffs' wood duck volunteers, and other Missourians who volunteer for Conservation Department programs and at Department facilities, are critical to our efforts to conserve Missouri's fish, forest and wildlife resources.
If you would like to help at Eagle Bluffs or volunteer on behalf of conservation, contact your local conservation office for opportunities. If each of us does a little, together we can accomplish a lot.