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Male and Female Hooded Merganser

These elegant and compact fish-eating ducks are the smallest of the three mergansers we see in the Niagara area. Measuring 16 – 19 inches long at maturity, they’re much smaller than the Common Merganser, whose length often exceeds 27 inches.

Even though the male is far more colourful than the female, both of them have crests on their heads that they can raise or flatten. When the male raises his crest, the thin horizontal stripe on his head transforms into a stunning white fan with a black perimeter. When the female raises her crest, it’s not quite as impressive . . . more like she’s having a really bad hair day.

Hooded Mergansers, or “Hoodies” as they’re called by birders, are cavity nesters, using trees or nesting boxes, if they’re close to the water.

I found a group of these beautiful little ducks at the marina on Tonawanda Island in the Niagara River. They’re usually very skittish and human-wary, and as a result, aren’t the easiest duck to photograph.

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