On November 1st, I reported that a male Hooded Merganser arrived in our Wetlands. That bird was by itself until Saturday, two days later, when a female showed up. On Tuesday (11/6) when I made my rounds through Explore the Wild I saw five birds. There are now eight.
According to most range maps, Hooded Mergansers are permanent residents in our area. Perhaps they are, but I don’t see them here after mid-April, and that’s usually a non-breeding individual that lingers a bit too long. Most of our mergansers leave sometime near the end of March and return in November.
As soon as they arrive in the fall the males begin their pair-bond displays, bobbing their heads, rearing back and uttering a low, rolling croaking sound in an attempt to impress the females. It seems that the pairs are usually formed by the time winter rolls around, but the displays may continue until it’s time to head back north to breed. I believe the additional displays are to reinforce the pair-bonds made earlier in the season or to ward off males who have not yet formed bonds with a female.
We may see more mergs move in as the season progresses, so keep your eyes opened for them. I’ve seen as many as fifteen at a time in the Wetlands.
Greg Dodge is a professional naturalist as well as a writer, videographer and producer of natural history DVDs. His images have been used in various TV productions, museum displays, and corporate videos. Above all, he has a fascination and passion for all things natural.
He can be found Tuesday thru Saturday in Explore the Wild, Catch the Wind, or on the Dinosaur Trail. Ask him what’s new in the wild!