About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

New Bird Sighted: Hooded Merganser

Hi Sarah!

I’m not sure if you’re very familiar with types of ducks, but since a duck is a type of bird I thought I would check with you. I saw this duck at the golf course the other day and am unable to find it on the internet. I thought at first it was a young duckling since it had down on its head, but it was bigger than all the babies and so I think it was the mother. Do you have any idea what kind of duck this is?
Since it’s getting warm in NC now, I don’t have as many birds at my feeders out back. Right now I’m having a high number of goldfinches. Is that normal for this time of year in the south? I occasionally see a cardinal or titmouse at the feeder, but for the most part they have stopped coming up.

Thanks so much!-Angie

Hello!
It's good to hear from you again. This bird looks like a Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus. They are a small duck about 16-19" with a pointed bill. The female has a dusky brown body, with a reddish brown crest. Both sexes show a white wing patch in flight. The male has a black back and head with a bold white crest outlined in black. Most of the time the male holds his crest flat to his head, but when threatened or aroused he’ll unfold his brilliant crest.

They are extremely agile swimmers and divers and among the fastest-flying of ducks, but awkward on land. All mergansers have thin bills with tooth like serrations to help them eat small fish, small frogs, newts, tadpoles, and aquatic insects.

Males perform an extensive courtship display which includes head pumping and serenading the female with a song described as a croaking frog. Once mated the female nests in tree cavities like the Wood Duck or in man made nest boxes.

More information on Hooded Mergansers can be found at: http://ning.it/dvaTfB and http://ning.it/bqTDK2.

Next, according to Wikipedia, the state of North Carolina has 467 species of birds recorded (http://ning.it/b8Ry5l). The WBU in New Bern, NC posted a list of what to birds to look for in the spring at http://newbern.wbu.com/: Spring migration brings the Hummingbirds, Whip-poor-wills, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Indigo Bunting, Baltimore and Orchard Oriole, Red-eyed Vireo early in the month and the Yellow Warbler, Rose-breasted, Painted Buntings, and Blue Grosbeak later.

And it's not unusual to see lots of goldfinch flocking at this time of year. They are a social bird, and will gather in large flocks while feeding and migrating. Their flocking will decrease during breeding season beginning in late July.

I hope that helps. Thanks for writing again.

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