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West Farms Rapids

The Daily Plant : Tuesday, August 24, 2004


The green-crested, square-tailed wood duck has become an increasingly common sight on the Bronx River. The Bronx River Alliance, the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, and the Westchester County Department of Parks, Recreation & Conservation are working together to create new wildlife habitat in the Bronx and are trying to entice even more wood ducks to the river. In order to do so, they are making the river and its environs as hospitable as possible.

On the morning of Thursday, August 12, in Bronx Park along the Bronx River, the eight-person Bronx River Alliance Conservation Crew and a conservation crew from Westchester County installed eight duck boxes. Six of the boxes were placed along the Westchester side of the river, while the remaining two were installed along the City section—one in Bronx River Forest, just north of the New York Botanical Garden, and one in the Shoelace section of the river at 228th street.

"I’ve been on the river for four years and have seen a steady increase in wood duck pairs over that time," said Brian Aucoin, a Conservation Specialist with the Bronx River Alliance. "The Bronx River seems to have become an increasingly important part of their migratory route, and we want to extend to the ducks the utmost in hospitality."

The result is the duck box—a fowl flat of sorts, measuring one square foot, with an interior cavity at the center measuring four inches wide. Ducks are cavity nesters—they generally nest in the woody cavities of tree trunks. These duck boxes complement the accommodations that the Bronx River Alliance already makes for wood ducks. The conservation crew routinely leaves dead tree trunks eight inches in diameter or more in the forest so that ducks can make homes in them by hollowing out the dead wood. Other inhabitants of these cavities are flying squirrels.

The hope is that the tonier and more abundant the accommodations, the greater the number of wood ducks will stop over on the Bronx River during their migratory seasons, and the longer they will stay. If the ducks stick around for enough weeks, they may even begin laying their eggs in the boxes (which can hold dozens of eggs). Aucoin says that the crew will observe the boxes closely during the next migratory seasons. If the boxes prove popular with migrating birds, the crew will build more.

In addition to housing ducks, the conservation crew manages and restores the eight-mile New York City section of the Bronx river and roughly a thousand acres of parkland. The crew serves as the eyes and ears of the river, performing weekly reconnaissance for hazards. The crew also routinely removes invasive vegetation, plants native trees and shrubs, and works on stream bank stabilization and salt marsh projects.

The Bronx River Alliance is a non-profit organization whose mission is to serve as the voice of the river and to rehabilitate, manage, and protect it by working with Parks & Recreation, local community groups, schools, and other parties involved in the upkeep of this precious resource. Because Westchester County is upstream from the Bronx, the Bronx River Alliance works in tandem with Westchester County to implement as many conservation projects as possible.


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