Mergansers Are Back

I saw the first hooded merganser of the season on Saturday, 2 November here in our wetlands. It was a single male. Today, three days later, there are seven of the fish eating, diving waterfowl.

Besides fish, hooded mergansers eat aquatic insects, amphibians, crustaceans (that includes the invasive, dreaded, red swamp crayfish), mollusks and even some vegetation.

This merganser has a red swamp crayfish.

Here in our wetlands the mergs typically arrive by mid November, with an occasional visitor in the latter part of October being the earliest on record.

The first merganser of the season.
Males are strikingly plumaged birds.

Both males and females are attractive ducks. Male wood ducks receive much attention for their multi colored and patterned plumage, but there’s something to be said for the simple elegance of a male hooded merganser’s black, white and chestnut plumage. Even the female’s browns and grays are tough to beat, especially in the warm morning sunlight.

Two females swim by.
Morning light brings out the female’s rich brown tones.
Immature male. Note the darker bill and light eye (female has lighter bill and darker eye).

Keep an eye out for these ducks whenever you enter Explore the Wild. They should be starting their pair bonding displays within a few days.

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