Living Bird Magazine
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“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. Females get their own distinctive elegance from their cinnamon crest. 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.More ID Info
Hooded Mergansers are fairly common on small ponds and streams across their breeding range. In fall through spring, head to unfrozen lakes or shallow, protected saltwater bays and look for them mixed in flocks with other small divers like Bufflehead and Ruddy Ducks. Pay attention for flying ducks too—a fast series of truncated whistles from high overhead may signal the rapid wingbeats of a commuting merganser.
If you live near the appropriate habitat for mergansers, consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. If your box does not have nest material from a previous resident, you can add wood shavings to entice a new resident. Find out more about nest boxes on our Attract Birds pages. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.