13 Interesting Facts about the Common Merganser | Withme Photography Blog

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The Common Merganser was one of the first ducks I encountered that wasn’t a mallard. I still remember standing at the side of a reservoir as five or six flew overhear. That first encounter gave me a number of photographs that I took pride in. In the years that followed I have always considered it an exciting time when the Common Mergansers were in the area.

Male Common Merganser in Flight

Male Common Merganser in Flight

Here is some of what I have learned about them so far.

  • Like the other mergansers, they have serrated edges to their bills to help them grip their prey. As a result they are often known as “sawbills”.
  • In addition to fish, they take a wide range of other aquatic prey, such as molluscs, crustaceans, worms, insect larvae, and amphibians. Although it is rare, they may also take small mammals and birds.
  • When disturbed, Common Mergansers often eject the food in their stomachs before moving
  • Gulls often follow Common Mergansers as they forage. The gulls wait for the ducks to come to the surface with a fish, and then try to steal their prey. Bald Eagles are known to attempt this from time to time too.
  • Nesting is normally done in tree cavities. In places devoid of trees, they use holes in cliffs and steep, high banks
  • The female lays 6–17 white to yellowish eggs, and raises one brood in a season.
  • The ducklings are taken by their mother in her bill to rivers or lakes immediately after hatching, where they feed on freshwater invertebrates and small fish fry, fledging when 60–70 days old.

Female Common Merganser in Flight

Female Common Merganser in Flight

  • The young are sexually mature at two years old
  • Common Mergansers are a partial migrant. Birds will move away from areas where rivers and major lakes freeze in the winter, but will remain resident where waters are open.
  • The Common Merganser can be a salt-water or a fresh-water visitor.
  • In streams and rivers, they float down downstream for a couple of miles, and then fish their way back, diving incessantly along the way.
  • The Common Merganser moves clumsily on land. They resort to running when pressed, assuming a very upright position similar to penguins, and falling and stumbling frequently.

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