Seen on St. Mary’s Lake in Glacier National Park on Labor Day…
Description: The long, narrow bill with serrated edges readily distinguishes mergansers from all other ducks. Common mergansers are among the largest ducks, but are less stocky than eiders and goldeneyes. In flight, they appear more elongated than other ducks, flying in trailing lines close to the water’s surface. Male common mergansers have a greenish-black crested head and upper neck. The lower neck, breast and underparts are creamy-white with a variable pink wash. They have black backs and upperwing coverts with white scapulars. The bill is red with a blackish culmen and nail. The legs and feet are a deep red. Female common mergansers have a tufted red-brown head that is clearly defined from the lower neck by a clear whitish chin. The back and sides are silver-gray and the breast and belly are white. The bill is red with a blackish culmen and nail. The legs and feet are deep red.
Breeding: Common mergansers breed from Alaska, the southern Yukon, Labrador and Newfoundland south to central California, Arizona, New Mexico, southern Chihuahua and east of the Rockies to Minnesota, Michigan, New York, New England and Nova Scotia. Common mergansers nest in tree cavities, nest boxes, cliff crevices and on the ground, generally near clear-water rivers in forested regions and on mountainous terrain. Female common mergansers lay an average of 9-12 eggs.
Migrating and Wintering: In winter, the American race of common merganser ranges along the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland almost to Florida, in the interior from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and on the Pacific coast from the Aleutian Islands to Mexico.
Population: May population surveys during 1970-’79, suggested a continental population of 1.5 million birds. Currently, accurate population information does not exist for common mergansers. However, populations are thought to be stable.
Food habits: Common mergansers eat mainly fish, amphibians, crustaceans, mollusks and other invertebrates obtained by diving underwater in marine and freshwater habitats.
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