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The Hooded Merganser is a small, long-bodied diving duck. Both sexes have a "hammerhead" like crest, black and white on the drake while a rust brown on hens. The tail of this duck is rather long and often held upright when swimming. Like other mergansers, this bird has a long narrow bill. Hens are a dark gray color while drakes are mostly black. Look for two black "spurs" on each side of the drake.
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 a 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 know to dump their eggs in another Merganser's nest resulting in lare clutch sizes; they have even been reported to dump their eggs in the nest of a Wood Duck.