Hooded Merganser Duck (Lophodytes cucullatus)

hooded merganser duck

The hooded merganser duck, also known as the common merganser duck or hooded duck, is an aquatic bird species found throughout North America and Europe. The name hooded comes from the distinctive crest that males of this species have on their heads, which resembles a hood.

This crest (in combination with other physical traits) has led to this species being classified in its own monotypic genus, Lophodytes.

The Hooded merganser duck is a waterfowl in the order Anseriformes and family Anatidae. It is the only member of its genus, Lophodytes, and the sole representative of its family. It’s most commonly found in colder lakes and ponds, but some of them can be seen in warm rivers and streams during the winter months when food becomes scarce.

While it may look funny with its oversized bill and distinctive black-and-white coloring, the hooded merganser duck actually has an interesting mating habit.

Lophodytes cucullatus (hooded merganser duck ) is a medium-sized duck that makes its home in marshes, ponds, lakes, rivers, and swamps of eastern North America, from southern Canada to northern Florida and west to Texas.

Like most ducks, the males are larger than females, but they have otherwise similar appearances, which makes them very difficult to tell apart in the wild.

Scientific name

The scientific name of the hooded merganser duck is Lophodytes cucullatus.

Range and habitat

The hooded merganser ducks are birds that live in North America and can be found in freshwater wetlands, ponds, Wooded lakes, and rivers, where they will dive for their food. The hooded merganser ducks prefer to stay close to the shoreline, which helps them avoid predators.

They live in the forest, along creeks and narrow rivers, and along pond edges in the summer. Open marsh habitats may be suitable if artificial nest sites are provided. Woodland ponds, fresh, brackish coastal estuaries, and wooded swamps are among their winter habitats.

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Hooded merganser duck size and weight

hooded merganser duck

The hooded merganser ducks are typically about 15.7 to 19.3 inches (40 to 49 cm) in length and weigh about 540 to 680 g (19 to 24 oz). Their wingspan is around 23.6 to 26 inches (60 to 66 cm).

Feathers and plumage

Adult Hooded Merganser ducks are black on top; their breasts and flanks are white and rich chestnut respectively. The black head has a prominent white patch that increases or decreases in size with the height of the crest.

Its gray and brown coloration is complemented by warm tones of tawny cinnamon on its head, which is gray and brown in females.

Molting

Hooded merganser ducks are migratory birds. They migrate to the northern hemisphere during the spring and summer, following their food sources. In the fall, they migrate back to the southern hemisphere for winter. Hooded merganser ducks lose their feathers when it is time for them to molt and grow new ones in order to go through this process of molting.

Molting occurs twice a year in hooded merganser ducks, once during spring and once during fall. The timing of molting may be triggered by day length changes or hormonal changes. When shedding their old feathers, hooded mergansers will rub themselves on logs or rocks to remove all the old feathers before starting a new one.

It takes about two weeks for the new feathers to come in and cover up the old feathers that were just shed.

Nesting behavior

hooded merganser duck

The hooded merganser duck will typically nest on the ground, in a hollow log, or under a pile of brush. Hooded mergansers nest near water, unlike other ducks. The male and female will both care for the clutch of eggs during the incubation period. Once the eggs hatch, both parents will work together to feed and care for their young.

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Hooded merganser diet and foraging

Their feeding time is during the day. Foraging for fish, crayfish, and other crustaceans occurs on the bottoms of lakes, rivers, and ponds. Additionally, they consume insects and plants from the aquatic environment.

In order to forage underwater, hooded merganser ducks dive and swim, using their feet to propel themselves.

Hooded merganser call and vocal behavior

A hooded merganser duck is usually silent but may call while courting or near a nest site. During courtship, a male makes a deep, rolling sound similar to a pickerel frog’s call. The duck is sometimes called a “frog-duck” in Georgia because of its frog-like sound. A female makes a hoarse gack call during courtship.

Breeding

hooded merganser duck

Nest sites are typically cavities in dead or live trees chosen by female hooded merganser. The most preferred nesting sites include nest boxes, as well as already constructed and abandoned nests. The height of caves is usually between 4 and 15 feet.

Within a few weeks after the nest is completed, between late February and early June, depending on the latitude, between 7 and 15 eggs are laid. March and April are the months when most breeding occurs. As soon as all the eggs are laid, incubation begins. After this point, the hooded merganser male leaves the female.

Female hooded merganser body weight drops by 8 to 16% during the time she incubates for nearly one month. It usually takes about 24 hours for juvenile hooded merganser to leave a nest after hatching.

Eggs are brooded by females in nests and chicks are cared for after hatching by females. Incubation of eggs begins soon after males leave the female. After emerging from the nest, young hooded merganser ducks can feed, dive, and leave their nest within 24 hours.

The care provided by a hooded merganser male and female after hatching is little known. It took 5 weeks for one female to abandon her brood.

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Lifespan

In captivity, they live for around 14 years. It is known that hooded merganser ducks can live for 15 years at their oldest. Several studies have reported that they can live up to 16 years if they are properly cared for.

Movements and migration

In general, they migrate locally to medium distances. Hooded Merganser spends the winter in the Great Lakes, southern Canada, and western North America, although many migrate south or southwest during the winter.

Hooded Merganser ducks typically migrate along the Mississippi River in the upper Midwest. Western Breeders migrate to the Pacific south and west.

Sometimes they move just before winter ice forms in late fall. During spring, they are among the first birds to reach breeding grounds after the ice has melted.

Diseases and threats of hooded merganser duck

The hooded merganser duck is mainly threatened by habitat destruction. They are also threatened by collisions with vehicles, and predation from foxes, raccoons, mink, coyotes, and hawks.

Hooded merganser duck population status

The population of the hooded merganser duck has declined by 90% since the 1940s. In North America, it is listed as a species of least concern by the International Union for

Conservation of Nature

It may also be subject to predation and competition from other waterfowl and cormorants. Lastly, habitat loss caused by human development is a major threat to these animals because it decreases their nesting sites.

Conservation and management

In 2013, Environment Canada added this bird to Schedule 1 in accordance with Ontario’s Endangered Species Act, 2007 as a result of its low population levels in that province.

Additionally, in 1998 the IUCN Red List categorized it as vulnerable due to its declining population across the Americas.

The Canadian Wildlife Service considers this animal to be an obligate feeder of fish, meaning they eat exclusively fish which can leave them exposed during periods of food scarcity.

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