Birds of Lake Independence: Mergansers

by Dale Ortlip

Common Mergansers.png

Common Merganser

Male left, female right

Hooded Mergansers.png

Hooded Merganser

Female left, male right

Common Mergansers are larger than Hooded Mergansers with a longer, thinner bill and paler sides. Buffleheads are smaller than Hooded Mergansers. Males have a white belly and sides whereas male Hooded Mergansers have cinnamon sides. Buffleheads are smaller than Hooded Mergansers.

The various Merganser species have different plumage, or feathers, but similar body and bill shapes. Their bodies are long, and they have long, narrow bills with a hook at the tip. Their bill is similar in appearance to a cormorant’s bill.

 

Habitat    

Wooded lakes, rivers; in winter, rarely coastal bays. Mainly around fresh water at all seasons. Summer: on shallow but clear rivers and lakes in forested country; avoids dense marshes and muddy waters. Winter: on lakes, large rivers; occasionally on bays along coast.

Feeding Behavior

forages by diving and swimming underwater, propelled by its feet, stroking with both feet in unison. Finds most food by sight; may swim along surface, dipping head underwater repeatedly until prey is spotted, then diving in pursuit.

Eggs

8-11, sometimes 6-13. Pale buff. Females often lay eggs in each others' nests. Incubation is by female only, 30-35 days. Young: May remain in nest a day or more after hatching; then they climb to cavity entrance and jump to ground. Female tends young birds for several weeks, but young feed themselves; they may survive even if abandoned quite early. Young are capable of flight about 65-70 days after hatching.

Young

May remain in nest a day or more after hatching; then they climb to cavity entrance and jump to ground. Female tends young birds for several weeks, but young feed themselves; they may survive even if abandoned quite early. Young are capable of flight about 65-70 days after hatching.

 

Diet

mostly fish. Eats a wide variety of fish; also will eat mussels, shrimp, salamanders, rarely plant material. Adult males may swallow fish more than 1 foot long. Young ducklings eat mostly aquatic insects.

 

Nesting

Courtship displays of male include swimming very rapidly in circles near female; suddenly stretching neck upward, pointing bill straight up, and giving soft call. Nest site is near water, usually in large tree cavity; also in crevices in rock, in holes under tree roots or undercut banks, or in nest boxes. Occasionally in buildings. Nest of wood chips or debris in cavity, plus lining of down.

 

Interesting Facts About the Merganser

These ducks are quite interesting creatures, with many unique traits and adaptations. Learn more about them below.

Dropping Ducklings – Just like goldeneyes and wood ducks, some Mergansers nest in tree cavities high above the ground. When the ducklings hatch, they jump from the tree and tumble to the ground! Thankfully, they are quite resilient (and a little bouncy.)

Stealing Seagulls – Lots of seabirds take advantage of the success of other animals, and these ducks often become the victim of this. Gulls will follow a duck as it fishes, then try to steal the duck’s catch before it can swallow it, instead of hunting for their own fish.

Brood Parasite – Not to be outdone, Mergansers sometimes take advantage of other birds as well. Females will lay an egg or two in the nest of another female duck. The other duck hatches the duckling and raises it unknowingly.

They do not make good pets.

Duck hunters call mergansers “fish duck”.

 

Documented they will eat zebra mussels – but not a preference.

4th_flotilla sign.jpg

Spurzem Creek Subwatershed Assessment is complete

County Environmental and Energy staff just completed a first draft of the Spurzem Creek Subwatershed Assessment. This assessment will help the county and its partners identify and assess the water quality benefit of conservation practices in the subwatershed, which includes all the lands that drain to Spurzem Creek and eventually Lake Independence. Figure 1 in the assessment shows the watershed area.

2022 Calendar of Events

Party on the Ice

Saturday February 19

Ice Clean-up Day

Sunday, March 13

Annual Members Meeting

Saturday, April 16

Fishing Club Travel Trophy Kickoff

Saturday, May 14

AIS Monitoring

July date TBD

4th of July Flotilla

Monday, July 4 1:00 P.M.

AIS Monitoring

August date TBD

Octoberfest in September Picnic

Saturday, September 24th

Fishing Club Travel Trophy Results

April 2023

I ❤️ Lake Independence Merchandise!

Fun new Lake Independence merch for you or for gift giving!

Merch Ad.png