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Hooded Merganser

From Opus

Photo © by Pete Arnold  Salt Lake City, Utah
Photo © by Pete Arnold
Salt Lake City, Utah
Lophodytes cucullatus


[edit] Identification

42–50 cm (16½-19¾ in); 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 are brownish grey overall.

FemalePhoto © by DeanneartSouthern New Hampshire, US, February 2012
Photo © by Deanneart
Southern New Hampshire, US, February 2012

Like other mergansers, this bird has a long narrow bill which is mostly black in breeding male and brown with orange base in female.
Iris: starts as yellowish brown in juvenile becoming yellow in male during second year, but becomes more reddish-brown in the female.

[edit] Distribution

JuvenilePhoto © by Gerald FriesenCarlsbad, California, USA, November 2016
Photo © by Gerald Friesen
Carlsbad, California, USA, November 2016

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.

Most European sightings are likely to be escapes from wildfowl collections, though some (particularly in Iceland and Britain could be genuine vagrants.

[edit] Taxonomy

This is a monotypic species[1].

A recent paper proposes that this species should be included in the genus Mergus[3]

[edit] Habitat

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.

[edit] Behaviour

The tail of this duck is rather long and often held upright when swimming.

[edit] Diet

These ducks forage by diving in shallow water where they consume small fish, aquatic insects, and crustaceans (especially crayfish).

[edit] Breeding

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.

[edit] Gallery

Click on photo for larger image

[edit] Reference

  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2018. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2018. Downloaded from
  2. Collins Bird Guide ISBN 0 00 219728 6
  3. Birdforum thread discussing the taxonomy of some mergansers
  4. Birds of North America Online

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