Hooded Mergansers are part of the Anatidae family, a family that includes different types of ducks. Males and females don’t look that much alike but they both have crests that can raise and lower so that their head looks more like other ducks.
In winter, they are usually seen in ponds and swamps, as well as coastal estuaries, bays, and inlets. While they are found in brackish and salt water, they mostly prefer fresh water. The Hooded Merganser is the only species of merganser that lives, breeds, and winters in North America. They live year round in Southeast North America and migrate in central America.
A few days ago, while I was biking I saw a pair of Hooded Mergansers. I noticed that they dive and swim underwater for a few seconds like coots or cormorants.
Nesting and Nestlings:
Females choose where they nest which is usually in tree cavities or logs. Common Mergansers compete for nesting sites with Wood Ducks, Common Goldeneyes, and Common Mergansers lots of times.
Hooded Mergansers are monogamous and begin breeding at 2 years old. The lay about 5-13 eggs which are usually thick-shelled and white. As soon as she starts incubating the male leaves her and the nest but may come back the following season. She may incubate them for about 26 to 41 days, adding her own down to the nest to keep the eggs warm. After the eggs hatch, they remain in their nest for only a day. Afterwards the mother leads her chicks into the water, and they are immediately taught to swim and eat, but they don’t fly till they reach 70 days old.
Hooded Mergansers prefer small fish but will eat aquatic insects too. They have eyes that help them see the fish underwater which helps them to be better hunters. When hunting they will propel themselves with their feet and use their long skinny bills to grasp their prey.