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Frank C. Bellrose

1916 - 2005

It was April 1938 when old Milford Smith took the crew-cut city kid on a tour of Lake Chautauga. A marshrat out-law in the finest Illinois River tradition. Smith had grown up gunning out of season ducks and geese and now he had grown out of it. A job as a patrolman on a national wildlife refuge has turned the riverman from poacher to a protector. Young Frank Bellrose could have found no better guide.

As the first waterfowl biologist hired by the Illinois Natural History Survey, Bellrose was interested in studying ducks. When Smith found out, he offered to show the college-fresh kid the many natural wood duck cavities around the lake.

Since that April day in central Illinois, Frank Bellrose has never stopped studying the wood duck. Over his celebrated 50 year career, Bellrose has studied the species Aix sponsa more thoroughly than any other ornithologist. The scientist has compiled over 900 sources in the world's most definitive book on the wood duck.

In 1939, Bellrose and colleague Art Hawkins began studying wood duck use of artificial nesting houses as well as natural nesting cavities. The wood duck houses of the day, put up years before by the U.S. Bureau of Biological Survey, were too heavy to handle. The "houses" were huge slabs of sawn trees, bark and all. A five inch hole was bored into the center of each slab. The whole works was hoisted into a tree with a block and tackle.

After making some 50 measurements of natural nesting cavities, Bellrose and Hawkins came up with a new design. It was the first practical wood duck house. Made of sawn boards, the box was easy to handle. Better yet, wood ducks eagerly adopted the artificial homes. Though many modifications have been made through five decades, the Bellrose/Hawkins design is still the basic box used by wildlife professionals and private waterfowl enthusiasts across the United States.

In 1943, Bellrose further improved his design by making it raccoon proof entrance to the nesting box. Through much trial and error, and even more measurements, he determined that an elliptical hole would let wood ducks in, but keep the raccoons out. Since 1943, Bellrose has continually modified his design using others' suggestions, as well as his own ideas.

Today, Fran Bellrose has taken his 50 year study, ideas and innovation, and put them to work. Joining Cattail Products, Bellrose has designed a wood duck nesting box especially for Cattail Products. Developed by the scientist to be "The Best, most affordable wood duck nesting box ever." Bellrose's nesting box is designed to aid North American waterfowl in two ways. First, placement of this box in suitable habitats will enhance wood duck populations. Second, units are made of recycled milk jugs.

Wood Duck Box Price List:

    Wood Duck Box: $44.95 + S/H

Individual Items:

    Bowl $5.00

    Metal Ring $3.00

    Front Door $16.95

Mallard Cylinder $21.95