Top Photo: Two males strut their stuff in the wetlands..
Hooded mergansers are with us from November to April. Soon after they arrive for the winter they begin the pair bond process, finding a mate. The mergansers won’t actually be mating at this time, but instead are forming pair bonds with future mates (I have, though, witnessed copulatory behavior here in our Wetlands).
Once the bond is formed the pair may reinforce the bond during the remainder of the winter. This makes for less time wasted on the breeding grounds. The pair is already formed when they arrive at the nesting area.
Once there, they perform what is called the mating or copulatory display. They mate, the female lays her eggs in a tree cavity, much like the familiar wood duck, and the male takes off for parts unknown leaving the female to raise the brood.
The pair bond display involves much bobbing and weaving, head wagging, and emitting of muted croaking calls to impress the female.
I’m sure the ducks are taking their behavior quite seriously, but to me, it’s amusing to watch the mergansers strut around while competing for the females. Come on out and have a look for yourself.