Sunday, February 3, 2013

Hooded Merganser

Lophodytes cucullatus (male)
The Hooded Merganser is a small species of duck that can be found in North America, living in wetlands that are near forested areas. They are migratory, moving north in order to breed (with large population around the Great Lakes) and south in order to avoid the cold winters.

You can easily identify the Hooded Mergansers, as "hood" barely describe the extravagance of their head feathers. Males have very large crests that are a stark black and white pattern. Females also have these crowns, though theirs are a cinnamon brown.

Hooded Mergansers are particularly interesting when it comes to their breeding and child-rearing habits. Some females will actually lay their eggs int he nests of other females. Though brood parasitism like this is seen in other species, the Mergansers are notable because they only lay their eggs in the nests of their own kind. A single female will lay around a dozen eggs, but some clutches will number over 40!

The chicks don't stay in their nests long after they are born. Within 24 hours the mother will hop out and survey the surroundings. If the coast is clear, she will call her chicks down... which can be quite a leap as they nest up in trees or in boxes. They then have to march after their mother, sometimes as far as half a mile, until they reach a body of water.

IUCN Status : Least Concern
Location : North America
Size : Length up to 19in (49cm), Wingspan up to 26in (66cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Anseriformes
Family : Anatidae -- Genus : Lophodytes -- Species : L. cucullatus

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