Hooded Mergansers on a Small Pond

Late this afternoon, between 5:00 and 6:00, as I walked past the small pond on Summit Drive, I saw two spots of white out in the water that might be ducks, but I hadn’t brought my binoculars because it was cloudy and getting late, so I thought it was too dark to see much – and of course, any time I don’t take binoculars, I’m certain to run into something interesting. I walked off the road, toward the pond, and as I got closer I could see a bat circling over it. A Great Blue Heron emerged from the brush on the western edge and flew up in slow, ponderous motion. By then I could see for sure that the two white spots were ducks, and that there was also a third duck of a duller color. I kept walking toward the pond, and not surprisingly, they flew – with a whistle of wings and a flash of white marked by partial black bands. They were Hooded Mergansers, which I’ve seen on the pond once before, a year or two ago, two males and one female.

Hooded Mergansers are fairly common ducks here during the winter months, but the showy looks of the males are far from common – with big fan-shaped crests that, when raised, show a snowy white patch surrounded in black, and give them an impressive, large-headed appearance. The bill is long and very thin, the back is black, the sides a dull orange or rufous color, and two black stripes mark the edges of a white breast.

Altogether, it’s a colorful and unusual-looking duck that lends an exotic touch to a plain little pond on a gray winter day.

Leave a Reply