A Less Common Merganser

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Filed under Outdoor Notes

March 23, 2012

As I mentioned in my last note, we have three mergansers at various times of the year. Two breed here, the Common Merganser, and a less-common merganser, the Hooded Merganser.

Male Hooded Merganser

Male Hooded Merganser

These are stunning little ducks, and every winter brings a pair or two to Sherman’s Creek. The females are somewhat drab, but the males are not. These are boldly marked, handsome little ducks with jet black heads, finely stippled cinnamon flanks, and a crazy-yellow eye.

I have been trying to get a decent shot of a pair of these ducks for more than five years, but they are wary little birds. I have a couple of Loch Ness Monster shots of breeding displays, but I have only caught them once—and you can tell from the photos that they were nervous.

Hooded Mergansers, breeding behavior

Breeding chase, Hooded Mergansers

Hooded Merganser pair

Hooded Merganser pair

This is a small duck, and it tends to feed on smaller prey. Like the Common Merganser, on Sherman’s Creek, I have seen them beating up on the local crayfish.[1] They are also said to be more partial to aquatic insects than the other mergansers.

Hooded Merganser, hen.

Hooded Merganser, hen.

They nest along Sherman’s Creek as well. They are cavity nesters, and they are more than happy to take over a Wood Duck box. They will also lay eggs in the nests of other cavity nesting ducks—like Wood Ducks.[2]

Hooded Merganser, male

Hooded Merganser, male

Sadly, like many a snappy dresser, the male is a good breeder, but not a very good father; he leaves about the time the eggs are laid.

Stay tuned for merganser number 3.

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  1. I still have not identified the crayfish in Sherman’s Creek; I will, I promise. []
  2. There are actually several cavity-nesting ducks in North America in addition to the Wood Duck, Hooded and Common Mergansers, there are the Bufflehead and both Goldeneyes (Common and Barrows). The Black-bellied Whistling Duck is also a cavity nester, but it is pretty well limited to Texas. []

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2 Responses

  1. Gene Odato said:

    Why aren’t the Hooded Mergansers using the wood duck boxes that line the Sherman’s Creek?

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if they are. Does somebody check them all during the breeding season? I always see them there by Warm Springs in that backwater. There are plenty of natural cavities thereabouts, so they may prefer those.

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