A Sight To Behold For Sure

Welcome to Colleen’s Corner. This is a column meant for fun and some information About myself: I am Colleen Fielding, a Freelance Photographer you often see me on the side of the road  or in various places taking photos of different things animals, birds, places, people etc.  l have lived in Lumby just over 8 years,you have seen my photos in the newspaper (Lumby Valley Times) and once in awhile in the Vernon Morning Star, and the Lumby Art Gallery. Photography is my passion. Disclaimer:  The information on some of my photos that I write about a lot of times come from the Internet or books I research them, hopefully the facts are as close to the truth as I can come.

While out for a drive the other day we drove past a couple of small ponds, at one of them were some very beautiful Hooded Mergansers. These little ducks are quite pretty to look at. They are a smaller duck, being the second smallest in the Merganser Family, the Smew of Eurasia is the smallest in this species, the  Hooded is the only one that stays in North America. Living on small ponds, and rivers. The Hooded male has a chestnut colored flank, their upper body is black including their head that has a big white patch that can vary in size whether the crest is raised or not. Their wings are black with white patterns. Females, and the younger ducklings’ colors are gray and brown and have a cinnamon crest. When courting, the males will expand their white crests and make groaning calls that can sound really low and gravelly, they at times will shake their heads or jerk their head backwards touching their own back. They will court in groups with one or more females and a lot of males. The females will respond to the males courting by bobbing their heads and making a sound back to the males. The females will lay their eggs 5-13 eggs, but they don’t lay them on the ground like some other ducks, instead they prefer to lay them higher up in a nest cavity which can be as high up as ninety feet. 1 Brood per year. The Eggs are White, with an almost spherical shape and a very unusual thickness to them. The eggs in length are about 1.7- 2.4 inches, and the width is about 1.5 – 2.1 inches. The incubation period is about  26-41 days. The Nesting period is very short, only being 1 day. When hatched the ducklings are very well developed with down brown backs, with yellow or reddish cheeks, white underparts and they have grayish spots on their wings and tails.  

While nesting the female might pretend to have a broken wing which will protect the eggs from predators like Raccoons, Minks, Black Rat Snakes, Black Bears, Pine Martens, Starlings, 3 types of Woodpeckers, including, Northern Flickers, Red- Headed, and Red Bellied. Within 24 hours the little ducklings are ready to leave their nest, no matter how high off the ground they are, the female will be on the ground checking out the area first to make sure it is safe she then will call out the little nestlings out, one by one they will flutter to the ground, as they don’t fly just yet. Once all have landed even if they don’t belong to this female, they will all follow the female by walking to the closest  body of water that could be as far away as a mile or longer. You might see the female with 44 or more ducklings following her. Once in the water, the hunt for food sources begins. 

By the end of this breeding season, the female will already start to look for the next year’s nest. Like Cowbirds, they oftentimes will place their eggs in another Mergansers nest, unlike Cowbirds they will only place the eggs within their own species, whereas Cowbirds and other birds that practice this will place their eggs in any species nest. When birds do this the name for it is: Brood Parasitism. 

The Hooded Mergansers will dive for their food which consists of Crayfish, Fish, Vegetation, Mollusks,and other underwater food using their thin bills which are serrated. The young ducklings dives are short and very shallow, but the ducklings can also feed with their heads underwater while swimming. The Hooded Mergansers diet is broader than other types of Mergansers which usually only eat fish. The Hooded Merganser can find their food under the water by sight, they can change their eyes by using their refractive properties helping the improvement of their underwater vision. They also have an extra eyelid which is called : Nictitating Membrane, this extra eyelid is transparent and helps to protect their eyes when swimming. Just like a pair of goggles would protect our eyes. 

Hooded Mergansers are not like dabbling ducks, as they are great in the water, which they tend to swim low in the water, they have legs that are placed far back on their bodies, which is great for diving but not so good on land. If they want to fly they will run across the water, then fly with very fast wingbeats without gliding until they want to land, which they do by skidding to a stop quickly.

The oldest male recorded was about 14 years, and 6 months old when he was shot and killed in Mississippi in the year 2009, he had a band placed on him in Minnesota in 1995

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