Common Merganser 2014

Yosemite National park, California 2014

Common Mergansers are streamlined ducks that float gracefully down small rivers or shallow shorelines. The males are striking with clean white bodies, dark green heads, and a slender, serrated red bill. The elegant gray-bodied females have rich, cinnamon heads with a short crest. In summer, look for them leading ducklings from eddy to eddy along streams or standing on a flat rock in the middle of the current. These large ducks nest in hollow trees; in winter they form flocks on larger bodies of water.Size & Shape: These are large, long-bodied ducks with thin, pointed wings. Their bills are straight and narrow, unlike the wide, flat bill of a “typical” duck. Females have shaggy crests on the backs of their heads.

Size & Shape
These are large, long-bodied ducks with thin, pointed wings. Their bills are straight and narrow, unlike the wide, flat bill of a “typical” duck. Females have shaggy crests on the backs of their heads.

Color Pattern
Adult males are crisply patterned with gleaming white bodies and dark, iridescent-green heads. The back is black and the bill red. Females and immatures are gray-bodied with a white chest and rusty-cinnamon heads. In flight, both sexes show large white patches on the upperwings (larger in adult males).

Behavior
Common Mergansers dive underwater to catch fish. After the chicks leave the nest in summer, the female stays with them as they grow up while males gather in flocks. In winter, mergansers form large flocks on inland reservoirs and rivers. They stay in these tight flocks to feed and court during the cold months. In migration and winter, they mix with other fish-eating, diving ducks such as Bufflehead, goldeneyes, and other species of mergansers.

Habitat
These ducks live mainly on freshwater rivers and lakes. They are rare in the ocean, but they sometimes use saltwater estuaries in winter. They nest in tree cavities in northern forests near rivers and lakes.

Cool Facts

  • Young Common Mergansers leave their nest hole within a day or so of hatching. The flightless chicks leap from the nest entrance and tumble to the forest floor. The mother protects the chicks, but they catch all of their own food. They start by diving for aquatic insects and switch over to fish at about 12 days old.
  • Common Mergansers are sometimes called sawbills, fish ducks, or goosanders. The word “merganser” comes from the Latin and roughly translates to “plunging goose”—a good name for this very large and often submerged duck.
  • Common Mergansers usually nest in natural tree cavities or holes carved out by large woodpeckers. Sometimes mergansers take up residence in next boxes, provided the entrance hole is large enough. On occasion they use rock crevices, holes in the ground, hollow logs, old buildings, and chimneys.
  • You may see gulls trailing flocks of foraging Common Mergansers. They wait for the ducks to come to the surface and then try to steal their prey rather than fishing on their own. Occasionally even a Bald Eagle will try to steal a fish from a merganser.
  • The oldest Common Merganser on record was a female, and at least 13 years, 5 months old. She was banded in Oklahoma in 1938 and found in Wisconsin in 1950

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/common_merganser/id

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