The Hoodie, Yet Another Cavity Nesting Bird

by Larry Jordan on February 13, 2011

Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) photos by Larry Jordan

I found some Hooded Mergansers in breeding plumage at Turtle Bay, playing and splashing in the morning sun.  The “hoodie” is the smallest of the mergansers (the other two being the common and the red-breasted) and the most distinct of the three, the drake displaying his vertical, fan-shaped white crest quite freely.

This fellow was standing on a rock in the morning glow preening and showing off his beautiful plumage.  Click on images for full sized photos.

Here he is with his crest up bearing his distinctive white crest, bordered in black, and those bright yellow eyes.

Hooded Mergansers have a more varied diet than the other mergansers but have the same “sawtooth” bill.  They will dive and capture small fish, aquatic insects, and crustaceans, particularly crayfish, with the aid of eyes well-adapted to underwater vision1.

Hoodies are one of several duck species, including the Common Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Bufflehead and  Wood Duck,  that nest in tree cavities or nest boxes.  They usually start laying in late February or early March and possibly into April and May depending on latitude.  These ducks I saw at Turtle Bay were showing some mating activity so I’m sure they won’t be around much longer before they head farther north to breed.

The female Hooded Merganser was looking gorgeous as she preened on the rock next to the male.

The cinnamon crest, brown eyes and yellowish-orange lower mandible distinguish her from the drake.

Also her mostly brown plumage that she shows leisurely stretching atop this rock.

Here she is with her crest down and showing the white in her wings

And the juvenile male seen here didn’t have his adult plumage yet but was beginning to show some black and white markings on his breast.

I shot some video of him preening on the rock

To see more great bird photos, get on over to Bird Photography Weekly and World Bird Wednesday!

References: 1 Birds of North America Online

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