M…is for Mergansers!
Hooded Mergansers are small ducks with a thin bill and a fan-shaped, collapsible crest that makes the head look oversized and oblong. In flight, the wings are thin and the tail is relatively long and rounded.
“Hooded” is something of an understatement for this extravagantly crested little duck. Adult males are a sight to behold, with sharp black-and-white patterns set off by chestnut flanks. They are black above, with a white breast and rich chestnut flanks. The black head has a large white patch that varies in size when the crest is raised or lowered, but is always prominent. Females get their own distinctive elegance from their cinnamon crest, dark eyes and long, slender yellow bill. Females and immatures are gray and brown, with warm tawny-cinnamon tones on the head.
Hooded Mergansers are fairly common on small ponds and rivers, where they dive for fish, crayfish, and other food, seizing it in their thin, serrated bills. They nest in tree cavities; the ducklings depart with a bold leap to the forest floor when only one day old.
Hooded Mergansers dive to catch aquatic insects, crayfish, and small fish. Males court females by expanding their white, sail-like crests and making very low, gravelly, groaning calls. Hooded Mergansers fly distinctively, with shallow, very rapid wingbeats.
These are one of my favorite breed of birds, or more correctly ducks, to watch. Near the end of December through January, they can be found locally at the Ritch Grissom Memorial Wetlands.
Be blessed and be a blessing!
For more information on these and other birds visit allaboutbirds.org