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The Hooded Merganser is a small, long-bodied diving duck where both sexes have a "hammerhead" like crest.
Male in breeding plumage is mostly black and white with only flanks orange-brown. Female and non-breeding male is brownish grey overall. The tail of this duck is rather long and often held upright when swimming. Like other mergansers, this bird has a long narrow bill which is mostly black in breeding male and brown with orange base in female.
This duck is a permanent or summer resident in the Northern portions of the United States and Canada. During the winter these ducks migrate across the Southeastern United States. In the Central portion of the United States this bird is found as a migrant with birds wintering on the West coast.
These ducks are uncommon in small flocks on sheltered ponds and bays, especially wooded ponds and swamps with standing dead trees. During the breeding season females build a nest in a dead snag much like the Wood Duck Aix sponsa whom they have been known to share nests with.
These ducks forage by diving in shallow water where they consume small fish, aquatic insects, and crustaceans (especially crayfish).
Females lay a clutch of 5-44 white eggs inside a tree cavity or nest box, this nest is lined with the downy feathers from the hen's chest. The chicks hatch with open eyes and are covered in down. Within one day of hatching the chicks leave the nest never to return. Female Hooded Mergansers are known to dump their eggs in another Merganser's nest resulting in large clutch sizes; they have even been reported to dump their eggs in the nest of a Wood Duck.
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