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Interesting Facts About Hooded Mergansers

Parul Solanki
Hooded Mergansers are beautiful crested ducks found in North America. This story lists some fascinating facts about Hooded Mergansers that you are sure to enjoy.

Quick Fact

According to records, the oldest Hooded Merganser was 14 years 6 months old.
An extravagantly crested duck with black and white patterns that are set off by chestnut flanks and a fun, fluffy-shaped crest, the Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) is a beautiful duck that often goes undetected due to this secretive species' preference for wooded ponds, swamps, streams, and lakes.
The scientific name of this bird, cucullatus, comes from the Latin words "cucullus" which means hood, and "atus" which means provided with. The females have their own distinctive elegance with their cinnamon crests.
This fish-duck or saw duck, as it is commonly known, is the smallest of the three species of mergansers found in North America, and the only member of the genus Lophodytes. Like all mergansers, this small duck has a long, serrated bill tipped with a hooked nail.

Description and Identification

► The Hooded Mergansers are a small duck species, measuring approximately 16 to 19 inches in length during adulthood. They weigh around 1.5 pounds, and have an average wingspan of 26 cm.
► The Hooded Merganser is a sexually dimorphic species. This means that the males and the females of the species differ in appearance.
► The breeding males of this species have a black face, neck, and back with their underparts and breasts being a bright white. Their tail, and rump are brown in color.
Their white chest is often bordered by black and white stripes. The impressive feature of the breeding males, however, is their large white crest surrounded by black. They also have a narrow, black serrated bill.
► The females of the species have a gray-brown neck and head with a reddish-brown crest. They have gray chest, flanks, and sides. The upper part of the females' bill is black―edges are orange―and the lower bill is yellow.

Distribution and Habitat

► It is the only member of the Lophodytes genus to occur exclusively in North America.
► The Hooded Mergansers are found in the forested areas of eastern North America, with a majority of the population concentrated around the Great Lakes.
► The habitat that these birds prefer are swamps, lakes, streams, and out-of-the-way wooded ponds.
► They breed across a large part of the eastern United States and southern Canada. They can also be found along the Gulf coast, and to the west of the edge of the Great Plains. Another breeding population exists in the Pacific Northwest.
► They are short- to medium-distance migrants.

Reproduction and Nesting

► Like other cavity-nesting ducks, the Hooded Mergansers often lay their eggs in other females' nests. This is called "brood parasitism".
► During nesting, these birds prefer tree cavities near water, or sometimes, the available and unoccupied Wood Duck nesting boxes.
The nesting cavities are typically 10 to 50 feet above the ground. They can be in live or dead tress, and are usually close to a water body. The females make a shallow bowl in the already present cavity and lay eggs.
► The females lay approximately 13 eggs at a time. The females incubate the eggs for nearly a month after the males abandon their nests shortly after incubation starts.
► The ducklings leave the nest cavity within 24 hours of hatching.

Diet and Feeding

► This is a species of diving ducks, which means that they submerge themselves in the water to feed.
► They have a nictitating membrane, also known as a transparent eyelid, that protects the species' eyes and enables them to see better while diving underwater.
► They mainly survive on fish, aquatic insects, and small crustaceans such as crabs and crayfish.
► Their slender serrated bills are perfectly suited to catch the prey, while their strong muscular gizzards help in breaking down the shells of crustaceans.
These facts about the Hooded Mergansers provide a fascinating insight about these beautiful birds.