Nest Boxes Help Wood Ducks Make East Bay Recovery

WALNUT CREEK (KPIX 5) – A species of duck is making a rebound in parts of Contra Costa County with a little help from concerned humans.

Take a stroll through Walnut Creek’s Heather Farm Park and, for those who look closely, nature is on full display.

“You’re in the suburbs but you’re right there with the wildlife also,” said Walnut Creek resident Laura Thompson.

Most of it occurs naturally, but sometimes the wildlife gets a little help. Brian Murphy is a volunteer with the California Wood Duck Program.

“It’s the inner child — the eight-year-old inner child — that just loves this kind of stuff,” said Murphy.

The program is aimed at repopulating urban areas like Walnut Creek’s city parks with one of nature’s most beautiful and elusive water fowl.

“Just for fun we thought we’d put up wood duck boxes to see what happened. And guess what?!” said Murphy.

The boxes are helpful because wood ducks lay eggs up in the small crevices of older trees.  But many of those have been removed for flood control.

Murphy’s boxes give the ducks a place to nest. So far, they seem to be working.

“For us in the urban creek it’s a learning process,” explained Murphy.

They have learned the best places to position the boxes and how to keep squirrels out by sprinkling in a little cayenne pepper.

The average nest will have 12-14 eggs, but locals will be lucky if they ever actually see a wood duck, because the birds are shy and hide out near the creek banks.

But Murphy says there is a payoff.

“All you have to do is open up a box that’s hatched with all the ducklings in there. You’re hooked,” said Murphy.

The wood duck program has helped hatch more than 700,000 chicks statewide and many of them are living right under our noses. You just have to slow down and look closely to see them.

To learn more about the program, visit the Mount Diablo Audubon Society website.

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