110 W. New York Ave.
DeLand, FL 32720
Nature Scenes: Hooded mergansers sometimes swim at Earl Brown Park
By Lynn Bowen
posted Jan 21, 2014 - 6:30:26am
Three pairs of majestic-looking hooded mergansers swam among turtles, ducks and gulls at Earl Brown Park in December. Not only was the weather perfect, the scenery was too.
A male hooded merganser tends to be 18 inches long, has a 24-inch wingspan, and weighs just over a pound. He has an inky-black head with pearly white fan-shaped crests on the ear area that he can raise and lower according to his mood. His beautiful yellow eyes don’t miss a trick, and he has a rather long tail, which he points to the sky as he swims.
The female has the same silhouette, but has a reddish-brown head, dark back, and brown eyes.
Hooded mergansers live throughout the U.S. and southern Canada. They are excellent fliers and expert divers, and they swim swiftly on and under the water’s surface.
These birds enjoy lakes, ponds, swamps and creeks. With their thin little sawlike bill, they eat small fish, crustaceans, vegetable matter (like corn), and aquatic insects. They are seldom sought by hunters, because they aren’t tasty to eat. Oh, I’m glad!
Female hooded mergansers make their nests in tree cavities, using abandoned nests or just tree hollows that they line with feathers and grass. A female will lay about 10 eggs in late winter or early spring. Sometimes a merganser will lay her eggs in a wood duck’s nest that is already in use. In such a case, the wood duck has quite a surprise when two kinds of chicks hatch!
A male hooded merganser leaves the female after she lays her eggs, and she alone incubates them. The chicks jump from the nest after only 24 hours, and can swim, dive and feed themselves. However, they stay with their mom for five weeks.
Hooded mergansers are not only beautiful, but vivacious, elegant and graceful.
— Bowen lives in DeLand. Send email to her at email@example.com.
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