Through the Looking Glass of Val Lee – Merganser (Hooded)

Hooded Merganser (Male) © Val J. Lee

I photographed this distinct drake at my favorite park—Katherine Albertson. This is a Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) and it can cause quite the upset for any photographer. These non-quacking ducks are always on the move as agile swimmers and divers. When on a fishing expedition, they will submerge for a long stretch in time and emerge at a distant local. You can never guess where that odd, adjustable head will pop up next! They can hold their breath for as long as is needed. Wow! God is amazing in His creation; He provided all that is necessary by design for survival.

The pronounced ID on male Hooded Mergansers is the crest at the rear of the head which can expand or contract. This collapsible pinnacle is a large white patch when in full diadem array. You cannot help but be amazed by God when you see all the various ways the intricate beauty crest, glowing white, with black, can maneuver by the whim of the Merganser. Jesus Christ, out of His goodness, has made His created elegance everywhere present in the wilds of North America. The male Merganser is a true representative of this fact.

Hooded Merganser (male) © Val J. Lee

The crest can even fold into a marked out, artistic triangle (photo above). No man manufactured, transformer toy can maneuver and perform like the male Merganser crest can! It is my favorite American duck when it comes to loveliness. I am also impressed by their stately manner when they glide through the water.

Females display a crest as well; however, not as near impressive. They can throw it about and maneuver it in other ways, but it cannot beat their counterpart’s crowning agility of appeal.

This angry gal is the mate of the Male Merganser in my first video. Notice her unusual webbed feet. These ducks are prettier when their feet are hidden when floating on ponds.

The eighteen inch Merganser, with a wingspan of 27 inches, inhabits swamps and wooded ponds in America and Canada, bursting with tasty, aquatic life. They breed in northern locals and winter in the southern US.

Though this bird is on the shy side normally, this all changes during courtship. Males will involve themselves in a number of elaborate display expressions. What also surfaces is the definitive vocalizations—chattering or grunting, but never quacking in conversation.

Hooded Mergansers (female and male) © Val J. Lee

Their courting habits remind me of an ancient, native American war dance, waged against pioneers. Male suitors will surround a single gal, and each hopes to win her heart. They all attempt to impress with their vibrant, white crests in full expansion (akin to white and black feathered, native warbonnets); their necks bobbing their heads. They sometimes place their faces toward the sky, as they uplift themselves out of the water—an added, tasteful touch to a gala performance. As they seek to own, they will act like Indians on horseback, circling a wagon train in full determined expression. She is the center of attention and she shines.

Couples pair in early winter, nesting in tree cavities adjacent to water. (also characteristic of Wood Ducks) Between 10 to 12 spherical, thick-shelled eggs are laid. They are either white or green-blue; though an occasional black is laid.

Mom Merganser incubates the eggs for about a month. (Fowl eggs are completely amazing. God creates young within protective shells and He tells moms how to perfectly care for the unborn young through incubation, rotation, etc. Some male birds also assist on the nest.)

She solely tends the young until 10 weeks of age, when they are able to fend for themselves.

Male Hooded Merganser © Val J. Lee

What ushers in further amazement with this ave, is its eye equipment. The Merganser can change the refractive properties of its eyes to enhance its underwater vision. Their eyes are itsy-bitsy-cute; yet masterfully designed for underwater and above-water usage. The nictating membrane (third eyelid) is transparent, implemented for eye protection when diving, akin to donning a pair of goggles.

Its thin, black, long bill is a resourceful sawbill—a serrated cutting beak with edges—ideally suited for capturing and controlling slippery fish (their staple diet) and other aquatic delicacies such as crustaceans and insects.

Hooded Merganser (male) © Val J. Lee

Wow, isn’t God amazing in composing? And just think, Mergansers never have to plant fields, gather into barns or worry about having enough money for their next meal (Matthew 6:26). God has created all they require in abundance. Those who love Jesus Christ need never worry as well—birds bearing the mental picture of this truism. (Matthew 6:27-30 and 7:7-11)

~

Males display brown/reddish flanks with two black vertical bars at the front, black upperparts, a black face; and of course, a varying crest. Flight feathers are black and white striped with matching distribution. Under-layers are old barn brown. In all loveliness, this ave is designed for earth and sky.

Females own brownish flanks and darker brown upperparts, a brown head, and a brown/reddish to gray crest that can be raised or lowered, like the male. And her’s often bobbles. She exhibits a brown beak and her body can appear more grayish in fall, wearing her winter dress.

God grants them, on the average, ten years of life.

Additional photo showing the Hooded Mergansers with American Mergansers (Though it is stated, the two species do no mingle, I have seen them cruising together, as viewed in the photo.)  The American is a far larger Merganser.

Hooded Mergansers and American Mergansers (males and females) © Val J. Lee

*Info gratefully obtained from various web sources.

Please click here to learn of God’s personal love for you: letter-to-bird-enthusiast

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