Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Forestry and Environmental Conservation

Committee Chair/Advisor

Kyle Barrett

Committee Member

Greg Yarrow

Committee Member

Kristi Whitehead

Committee Member

James Anderson


Wood ducks (Aix sponsa) are an important game species throughout the Atlantic Flyway that was nearly extirpated by the early 20th century due to overhunting and the loss of habitat. Wood ducks are secondary cavity-nesters that utilize artificial nest boxes and natural cavities. It is reported that the use of nest boxes is likely what led to re-establishment of the species in North America. Where boxes are numerous, overuse of boxes by multiple hens throughout a nesting season can occur and result in a buildup of bacteria, parasites and other potentially detrimental pathogens that can impact egg hatchability. No large-scale regional study of reproductive biology of box-nesting wood ducks has been conducted across multiple states. I performed a study examining the reproductive ecology of wood ducks and bacterial growth from nest boxes in Georgia and Florida between 2020 and 2021. My objectives were to 1) estimate the percent use of nest boxes by wood ducks, estimate percent nest success, and calculate an average number of ducklings that departed nest boxes within Georgia and Florida, 2) to calculate a cost per female recruit from nest boxes between Florida and Georgia, 3) determine if the use of different types of shavings have any effect on nest box use, nest success, and number of ducklings successfully exiting boxes, 4) determine if the use of different types of shavings has an impact on the growth of nest-box microbes, and 5) determine if there are preventative measures managers may use to keep microbes from negatively affecting eggs. I monitored 142 nest boxes in Florida and 123 nest boxes in Georgia in 2020 and 138 and 120 nest boxes in Florida and Georgia, respectively, during the 2021 field season. In Florida, 90.3% of nest boxes and in Georgia 60.5% of nest boxes were used by wood ducks across both years. Nest success across both years and states was 40.9% (n = 644 nests), and the primary cause of nest failure was abandonment for unknown reasons (37.6%). Nearly twice as many ducklings successfully exited nest boxes in Georgia than Florida with averages of 11.46 and 6.86 ducklings exiting boxes from Georgia and Florida, respectively (P < 0.001). I conducted a cost analysis of the use of nest boxes per female recruit in these states and calculated 0.08 and 0.10 yearling female recruits/box/year in Florida and Georgia. The calculated cost per yearling female wood duck recruit over 20 years was $108.35 in Florida and $86.68 in Georgia. The cost per recruit for Georgia was about half the cost for the box materials and annual maintenance for 20 years. More data is necessary to conclude if nest-box programs are cost effective in Georgia and Florida. I found that the type of shavings had no impact on box selection, nest success or ducklings successfully exiting nest boxes. Additionally, the use of different types of shavings had no impact on the growth of microbes collected from nest boxes. While there are no explicit recommendations for what type of shavings to use in nest boxes, it is recommended that managers regularly clean and provide maintenance to their nest boxes to avoid buildups of pathogens throughout the breeding season.

Author ORCID Identifier




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