USGS - science for a changing world

Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

  Home About NPWRC Our Science Staff Employment Contacts Common Questions About the Site

Homemade Nest Boxes For Cavity-Nesting Ducks


The nest boxes can be attached to trees or artificial supports in a variety of ways. The simplest and cheapest way to mount a nest box is to attach it to a tree. However, in many circumstances it will be necessary to use wood or steel supports in order to place the box over water or at other favorable locations. Support poles should be cedar, redwood or treated wood either 4- x 4-inch square or 4- to 6-inches in diameter. Generally speaking, it is more difficult to predator proof nest boxes attached to trees than those mounted on wood or metal poles. In all cases, the boxes and support poles should be securely installed so as not to sway in the wind.

The usual method of attachment to a tree or wood pole is to insert a 4- to 6-inch lag bolt through a hole bored in the back of the box, opposite the entrance, and turn the bolt until the box is drawn firmly against the tree or post. Drill or punch a small hole into the tree in order to get the lag bolt started. Large washers should be used between the head of the lag bolt and the box. With a lag bolt the strain imposed on a box by a growing tree can be readily relieved every few years by a few loosening turns of the lag bolt. If heavy steel pipe or posts are used, it may be necessary to drill one or more holes in the pipe or post to bolt the box in place. The nest box should be fastened to its support so that it has a slight forward tilt. A backward tilt may prevent ducklings from climbing out and may also allow rain to enter.

When placed over water, structures should be high enough so that they will not be flooded. Four to 6 feet above the water's surface is acceptable to cavity-nesting ducks and also permits easy inspection and maintenance from a boat (Figure 13). It is best to place posts in water areas where they will not be destroyed by spring ice action.

GIF-A Wood Box Placed Over Water

Figure 13. Support piles and pipes driven in to the marsh bottom should provide several feet of free space between the bottom of the nest box and the surface of the water.

Poles for over water nests can be placed in winter when the ice is thick enough to safely support a person and/or vehicle (see chart). A hole slightly larger than the pole is cut through the ice with an auger or chisel. A special attachment for the auger blade is available which makes it possible to drill the hole into the frozen bottom of the lake. After the hole is drilled, a metal pipe or a 14-foot 4-inch x 4-inch wooden pole, with one end sharpened, is placed in the hole and forced by hand into the bottom as far as possible. The pole can be driven deeper into the marsh bottom with a post driver; several feet of the pole or pipe should extend above the high water level.

Guidelines for determining when ice is thick enough to support humans and vehicles.

Ice Thickness	    Permissible Load

Less than 2" STAY OFF! 2" One person on foot 3" Group in single file 7 1/2" 2 ton truck gross (car or snowmobile) 8" 2 1/2 ton truck gross 10" 3 1/2 ton truck gross 12" 8 ton truck gross

If the ice is soft and slushy you will need twice the ice thickness to insure safety. Beware of crossing rivers, beaver lodges and lakes at their inlets and outlets since the flow of water under ice impedes freezing.

Previous Section -- Nest Box Enhancement Consideration
Return to Contents
Next Section -- Attachment Using A Mounting Board

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Webmaster
Page Last Modified: Friday, 01-Feb-2013 19:37:45 EST
Sioux Falls, SD [sdww55]