Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mississippi Mergansers

My wife Beverly and I enjoy going for country drives whenever we can. We are bird watchers. Last week we were on a bridge high above the Mississippi River about 20 miles north of where we live, when we spotted several ducks swimming in the distance near the riverbank.
We pulled off to the side, shut the car off and got our binoculars out. There were 7 of them. We were surprised to see the males' large white head patch and the females have an interesting light brownish hairdo. As we were driving away, we got the bird book out and found out they were Hooded Mergansers, and that they are one of the most sought after ducks. So we decided to go back, and were glad we did! The book says:

"Extremely attractive and exceptionally shy, it's one of the most sought after ducks by birders. Most of the time the male's crest is held flat, but in moments of arousal or agitation he quickly unfolds his brilliant crest to attract a mate or signal danger. The drake displays his full range of colors and athletic abilities in elaborate late winter courtship displays and chases. It's important that he put on his best show as there are usually twice as many males as females."

There were two females and 5 males. We enjoyed watching their antics as the males danced, scooted across the water chasing the females, and "stood up" out of the water (like the small picture above) as they tried to impress a female, who would have no part of it. Their calls and chatter was like no other, hard to describe, very fun and interesting.
We watched them for several minutes. It was one of those connecting with the earth moments, a gift to us that we just happened upon.
Their antics were none like we'd ever seen. You'll have to see them yourself to appreciate their unique relationships. Fun!