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  • Writer's pictureTerry Wise

Hooded Mergansers on Carillon Stonegate Pond!

A male and female Hooded Merganser ducks were seen on Carillon Stonegate Pond yesterday.

Whether male or female, look for a duck with an unusual crown, crest, or “hoodie” on their oversized heads. “Hooded” is something of an understatement. Their crest may be described as ornate or even flamboyant, giving the head an oblong shape. While both the male and female have these hoodies, their coloration could not be more different. Adult males have a large black head with a large white patch that varies in size when the crest is raised or lowered - but is always prominent. Adult females have an elegant and distinctive cinnamon crest that can be lowered completely. Their bill is slim, serrated (to snag fish), and with a hooked tip. The male has a dark bill, while the female’s bill is bicolored. Hooded Mergansers have long tails, although these are not always visible. Non-breeding male is small, brownish duck with fairly long, straight, slender bill. The male’s iris is bright yellow, while the iris of a female and immature male is duller brown. And their legs are located far back on the body.

You may find Hooded Mergansers here in late March or early April. They can be seen on the surface of our ponds. And they may occasionally disappear below the surface as they dive for food.

The Hooded Merganser averages approximately eighteen (18) inches in length. And their wingspan is a short twenty-five (25) inches. Hooded Mergansers weigh in at around twenty-four (24) ounces.

Hooded Mergansers usually breed between March and April in the Pacific Northwest, the Great Lakes and into New England as well as southern Canada. They build nests in the cavities of trees – some fifty feet above the ground and are usually close to water. The female lays a single clutch of upwards of twelve (12) eggs. These eggs incubate over the next five (5) weeks. Hatchlings leave the nest within 24 hours of hatching, literally jumping from their elevated nests to the ground below. By the time the Hooded Merganser is nearly three (3) months old, it is completely independent.

Hooded Mergansers are late fall migrants - sometimes exiting just ahead of winter ice. In spring, they arrive early at breeding grounds – often within days of the ice melting.

So, while they are still here, walk along the pathway and observe these interesting creatures.

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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