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photo: Hooded MerganserFinger Lakes Wildlife - Hooded Merganser

These playful diving ducks typically appear on Seneca Lake in early Spring and late Fall. They are occasionally seen at other times of year, but rarely. These ducks like to frolic in the water and splash about. They dive as a group, so one minute you see them, and an instant later they are all gone. A moment or two later and they all bubble back up to the surface. Other than the splashing noises they are usually pretty quiet.

Identification Tips:
Length: 13 inches Wingspan: 26 inches
Small, compact diving duck
Long, pointed bill with serrated edges
Erectile, fan-like crest extends from back of head
Dark bill and wings
Often cocks its tail like a Ruddy Duck
Immature similar to adult female
Adult male:
Yellow eye
Black head and back
Large white patch in the center of the crest
White breast and belly
Black and white stripes at forward portion of reddish flanks
Dark tail
Inner half of upperwings whitish, bordered by 2 dark bars
Alternate plumage worn from fall through early summer
Male in basic eclipse plumage similar to adult female
Adult female:
Brown eye
Cold gray-brown head, neck, flanks, back, and upperwings with paler breast
Faint reddish tinge to crest
White belly

Similar species:
Adult male in alternate plumage is unmistakable. Female vaguely similar to other mergansers but much smaller with cold brown head, with reddish fan-like crest, and dark bill.
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