[mou] Cavity nesters

Steve Weston sweston2 at comcast.net
Thu Apr 24 00:58:55 CDT 2008

cavity nesters are well-known for dropping eggs in nests with other bird
 eggs.  I regularly see both wood ducks and hooded mergansers visiting the
 same boxes.  The wood duck eggs are usually ovid (egg shaped),  while the
 merganser eggs are rounder.  They are also slightly different colored, but 
 am not sure how reliable that is for differentiating them.   I try to
 minimize my handling of the eggs, so I do little more than count the eggs
 and determine if both are present.

 If you realize  that a hen lays one egg a day,   you see that often 
 hens are using the boxes.  It has been hypothesized that egg dumping is a 
result of a lack of satisfactory cavities, but studies have not supported 
this simplification.  While some boxes are major dump zones, nearby boxes 
can be ignored.

I have been told by one observer, who maintained a string of many wood duck 
houses for several decades, that if a Wood Duck hen hatches a mixed brood, 
the merganser chicks will abandon that group and either go off on their own 
or join with another family of mergansers.   Wood duck chicks will continue 
to follow a merganser hen.  I personally have not seen any "orphaned" Wood 
Duck chicks.  I have, at least a couple of times, seen merganser chicks on 
their own without a hen.  Interestingly, these orphans are more successful 
on our lake than Wood Duck chicks in a traditional family group.

Steve Weston on Quiggley Lake in Eagan, MN
sweston2 at comcast.net 

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