MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
Recently, wood ducks who make their home at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune have lost their natural nesting locations in tree cavities, but the Environmental Management Division with MCB Camp Lejeune is trying to change that by offering the waterfowl some new real estate.
“The wood duck population declined in the early 1900s due to unregulated hunting and habitat destruction,” said Kelly Tingle, a wildlife technician with Biological Science, EMD, Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.
The EMD and patrons aboard MCB Camp Lejeune have contributed to the habitat restoration of the ducks and other birds by providing nest boxes, which are artificial cavities for the ducks that nest here year-round. Wildlife technicians with EMD have recently begun maintenance on the boxes.
The technicians are working to replace damaged nest boxes and wood shavings inside the nests. They will also be recording the number of hatched eggs found in boxes to monitor the possible success of broods. In addition to the upkeep, technicians will relocate boxes to new sites as needed.
“We have to find new locations because the drought has left many of the ponds and aquatic habitats dry,” said Tingle. “They’ll nest in the boxes in those (dry) areas but unfortunately it makes it more difficult for the (ducklings) to survive the longer distance they have to travel (to water).”
More than 70 nest boxes have already been set up for wood ducks near waterways where they typically nest. The EMD also placed 100 boxes for the Eastern bluebirds, which live in the region year-round.
Hunters contributed to the decrease in the wood duck population in the 19th century, but with regulated hunting and laws like the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which protect the birds and their habitat, the species is now stable and increasing.
“Duck hunters, primarily, help the birds,” said Tingle. “Most hunters are conservationist. Ducks Unlimited, as well as other organizations, have really expressed the desire to help out the species of ducks.”
When hunting permits are purchased, the money accumulated from those sales goes in to wildlife conservation efforts. Individuals and organizations also help by donating nest boxes to wildlife management organizations.
“There are only two species of ducks that nest in tree cavities,” said Tingle. “The other ducks are migratory, but wood ducks can live here year-round. It’s a very common species so they’re easier to find and hunt.”
The wood duck is the second most-shot bird each year in the United States, according to the website published by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
“The efforts of putting up the boxes have helped (stabilize) the population over the years to maintain a viable habitat,” said Tingle. “It’s great that we’ve been able to play a part in that, and it’s good for the duck hunters as well.”
For information on waterfowl management aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, visit www.lejeune.usmc.mil or contact the MCB Camp Lejeune Conservation Law Enforcement Office at 451-5226.