A spunky female Hooded Merganser was seen for a day, skittering about Eastern Point. Don’t you love her cinnamon-colored feather-do? Her crest looked especially beautiful when she swam into sunlit areas.
Sightings of Hooded Mergansers nesting in Massachusetts are on the rise. Like Wood Ducks, Hooded Mergansers nest in tree cavities. The natural reforestation of Massachusetts over the past one hundred years has increased nesting habitat. And too, Hooded Mergansers have benefitted from nesting box programs designed to encourage Wood Duck nesting.
Hoodies eat crustaceans, fish, and insects. As water quality in Massachusetts has improved so too has the prey population increased. Additionally, the statewide recovery of North American Beavers has increased nesting habitat for many species of birds, including Hooded Mergansers and Wood Ducks.
I looked for the little Hoodie on subsequent days, but only saw her that one afternoon. The photos included here, of a singular male, were taken in Rockport in 2016.
Watch as the one-day old Hooded Merganser ducklings skydive to the forest floor, from a nest cavity five stories high up a tree.
Hooded Mergansers, like Cowbirds, often lay their eggs in other bird’s nests, including other Hooded Mergansers. Although a female Hoodie can lay up to 13 eggs, in one nest 44 Hooded Merganser ducklings hatched!
Without making a peep, from the dense patch of reeds on the north side of Niles Pond appeared Mama Mallard and four little ducklings. As long as I stood perfectly still and didn’t make any rustling noises, Mama didn’t mind my presence. She and the ducklings foraged all along the edge of the pond, until they spotted the males. They quickly skedaddled, making a beeline back to the reeds and just as quietly as they had emerged, back they slipped into the shelter of the cattails.
For over a month our shores have been graced with a pair of Northern Pintails. These beautiful dabbling ducks aren’t extremely rare, but we are at the very northern edge of their winter grounds. And, too, they are a bird listed as in sharpdecline by the North American Breeding Bird Survey.
The little duo are tremendously fun to watch. They are exhibiting very different behaviors, in large part I think because the male and female wing patterns are distinctly different from each other.
The female is super spunky. Her coloration is similar to a female Mallards, which makes her easily camouflaged amongst a mixed flock of ducks. She’s not intimidated by territorial behavior on the part of the Mallards and forages alongside the Mallards and American Black Ducks.
On the other hand, the male’s strikingly beautiful and unmistakable wing pattern sets him apart and at risk amongst the flock. He is elusive and if catches sight of a human, he makes a fast beeline to the opposite side of the pond. When feeding in a group, the Mallards and gulls attack him, easily able to latch onto his long elegant pintail and pull him down underwater (very disturbing to observe).
Papa Pintail’s morning stretches.
The female spends alternating time between foraging with the flock at the shoreline edge and dip dabbling with the male in the shallow water. Northern Pintails eat seeds, water bugs, crustaceans, snails, and grains, feeding in a variety of manners, dabbling, filter feeding, eating from the ground surface, and tipping-up in shallow water.