Photo of the Day: Common Merganser on East Bay

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I spotted this beautiful duck while paddling around East Bay in the kayak yesterday. While Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology says this is a female Common Merganser, I say she’s anything but common.

Plus, she was swimming ahead of a bunch of other non-Merganser ducks and kept turning around as if to say, “What is taking you guys so long?”

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Common Merganser in East Bay | Jane Boursaw Photo

Here are some cool facts about Common Mergansers, from the Cornell site:

Common Mergansers are streamlined ducks that float gracefully down small rivers or shallow shorelines. The males are striking with clean white bodies, dark green heads, and a slender, serrated red bill. The elegant gray-bodied females have rich, cinnamon heads with a short crest.

Young Common Mergansers leave their nest hole within a day or so of hatching. The flightless chicks leap from the nest entrance and tumble to the forest floor. The mother protects the chicks, but they catch all of their own food. They start by diving for aquatic insects and switch over to fish at about 12 days old.

Common Mergansers are sometimes called sawbills, fish ducks, or goosanders. The word “merganser” comes from the Latin and roughly translates to “plunging goose”—a good name for this very large and often submerged duck.

You may see gulls trailing flocks of foraging Common Mergansers. They wait for the ducks to come to the surface and then try to steal their prey rather than fishing on their own. Occasionally even a Bald Eagle will try to steal a fish from a merganser.

The oldest Common Merganser on record was a female, and at least 13 years, 5 months old. She was banded in Oklahoma in 1938 and found in Wisconsin in 1950.

Common Mergansers usually nest in natural tree cavities or holes carved out by large woodpeckers. Sometimes mergansers take up residence in nest boxes, provided the entrance hole is large enough. On occasion they use rock crevices, holes in the ground, hollow logs, old buildings, and chimneys.

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