Duck Nesting: A Key Impact of Learning Day Volunteerism on the West Campus Environment

ducks-collage-groveBird Nest Boxes

The West Campus natural environment has benefited greatly by the work of more than 100 employee volunteers, coordinated by the Office of Sustainability with three nonprofit organizations on Learning Day activities on 2012 and 2013.

Learning Day’s most lasting impact on West Campus was the construction and installation of 14 bird nest boxes with the help of Orange Audubon Society. West Campus student leaders purchased and installed six additional bird boxes during a May 2012 volunteer day event.

On Learning Day 2013, Orange Audubon Society partners and employee volunteers checked and numbered the 20 West Campus nest boxes.

Colonization of the Boxes

Each bird species makes its nest in a characteristic place, with some nesting in holes made by woodpeckers in dead trees or in natural cavities in older trees. Among the cavity-nesters are Wood Ducks, Great Crested Flycatchers and Eastern Screech Owls, as well as Flying Squirrels. In urban areas, for liability or aesthetic concerns, dead or old trees are generally cut down, leaving few available sites for these cavity-nesters.

If you ever visit West Campus, be sure to look at beautiful Lake Pamela and the retention ponds with their native vegetation. The large boxes on poles near the water are for Wood Ducks, which naturally nest in cavities in large cypress trees in swamps. When the ducklings hatch inside the cavity, they crawl to the mouth of the cavity (or box) and plop into the water or ground below.

According to Larry Rosen, institutional research analyst, who is a long-time observer of the campus environment, Wood Ducks have visited Lake Pamela over the years but are secretive. This is in contrast to the common Mallard Ducks we see all year or Ring-Necked Ducks which inhabit the lake each winter.

In summer 2013, Paul Eisenbrown, instructional assistant, observed and photographed Wood Ducks early each workday morning. Paul observed nesting in boxes near the retention ponds and, remarkably, in a box high in a pine tree intended for an owl.

Although there are now enough nest boxes on West Campus, the Office of Sustainability still plans a nest box making project for Learning Day 2014. The boxes will be installed on other campuses that haven’t benefitted from the volunteerism of recent Learning Days.

For more information about duck nesting or the 2014 Learning Day Orange Audubon Society project, contact Deborah Green, director, sustainability, at or extension 1830.

Click here for details about Learning Day 2014, service learning projects.

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