Hooded Mergansers have a white crest that can be lowered for diving and raised for courting!

I always get so excited for the return of Hooded Mergansers in the fall.  With their fancy head-dresses and striking colors and elusiveness, they are a real treat to see feeding and diving in the area creeks, lakes, and ponds.  

They are sometimes confused with Buffleheads, which is one of the next videos we’re working on, but let’s check out some of the best identifying features of Hooded Mergansers: First of all, the dynamic white crest on the males.  This can be raised for communication (courting) or lowered for diving.  You can see them lower them to a small stripe right before diving.  

Male Hooded Merganser

They also have thin serrated bills which they use for grabbing fish and crustaceans off the bottom.  These are diving ducks, so their feet are located far back on the body which helps them swim powerfully.  When they go to take off, they will occasionally run on the surface of the water.

Female Hooded Merganser

Female Hooded Mergansers also have a crest that can be raised and lowered, and they are mostly brown with paler undersides.  Juveniles of both sexes look like females.

They are great divers, with specially adapted eyes for seeing under water, and they can stay under water to forage for over a minute.  It’s fun to watch and see if they’re going to pop up where you expect them to.  

Take a longer Look at Hooded Mergansers: Home/School Activities:

Here’s an un-narrated longer look at Hooded Mergansers in their natural setting.  If you’re looking for an activity to do with kids, have them pretend they are watching this in real time: are there more important ducks than others?  What are the behaviors you see them exhibiting?  What prey might they be finding?  What predators might be nearby? What resources are they competing for?