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Ducks - Common Mergansers

On Seneca Lake the Common Mergansers are around quite a bit. They are often seen cruising through as they hunt for fish. They are amazing underwater swimmers and if the lake is calm and clear you can actually see them swim under water. When they go after a fish it is truly amazing. They seem to fly underwater. Their gurks and jurk noises are quite distinctive and comical. They don't tend to loiter around and wait for handouts the way the mallards do. So when you see them, they are usually on a food hunt or just passing through on their way to quiet land to set up camp for the night.

Identification Tips:
Length: 18 inches Wingspan: 37 inches
Large, sleek diving duck
Long, pointed bill with serrated edges
Red bill is thick at base, tapering towards tip
Sleek, tapered crest, more obvious on females than on males
Brown eye, White secondaries
Immature similar to adult female, often with a less-distinct chin patch

photo: Merganzer MaleAdult male:
Greenish-black head and upper neck
White breast, flanks and belly
Black back and upperwing coverts with white scapulars
White secondary coverts crossed with indistinct dark bar
Alternate plumage worn from fall through early summer
Male in basic eclipse plumage similar to adult female

photo: Merganzer Female Adult female:
Red-brown head meets pale breast in crisp line of division
Well-defined white chin
White breast and belly
Pale gray body plumage
Similar species:
Adult male in alternate plumage is somewhat similar to male Red-breasted Merganser but has white breast and flanks, and a less obvious crest. Female, immature and eclipse male distinguished from similarly-plumaged Red-breasted Mergansers by sharply-defined chin, reddish head contrasting with white breast, paler gray plumage, sleeker crest and larger bill. In winter, Common Mergansers, unlike Red-breasted Mergansers, are generally found in freshwater habitats.
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