Hooded Merganser Ballet

During my regular walk along the Willamette River this morning I saw these beautiful, strange birds- Hooded Mergansers!  The female is somewhat similar to the Common Merganser I saw here a couple of months ago.

There appeared to be three males and two females- the colorful ones were males and I’d guess their elaborate pattern was a trait for breeding.  Then I noticed the dance, as I captured in this video below.  It was a completely overcast day and I was pretty far away, so the resolution is not very good.  But, it’s good enough to see these birds bobbing their heads back and forth.  Check it out- what are they doing?

According to a Cornell Lab of Ornithology website about Hooded Mergansers:

Courtship occurs in small groups consisting of at least one female and several males…Males have elaborate courtship behaviors which include Crest-raising, Head-shaking, Head-throws with Turn-the-back-of-the-head, Head-pumping, Upward-stretch, Upward-stretch with Wing-flap, and ritualized Drinking.

The website also indicates that they have been noted to breed in November and December, and they like to nest in deciduous trees (they nest in cavities) near water.  The land that you can see in the photo and video is an island in the middle of the Willamette that hosts many, many deciduous trees (as seen here).

Did I see a courtship display?

Either way, it was cool!

  1. Great shots of the “Hoodies” and their courtship displays Mike! Waterfowl have to have some of the best courtship displays around (other than those eccentric tropical birds). Three males and two females vying for their attention, I bet they were pretty busy guys 😉

  2. Absolutely – this is the courting dance. Great capture. I just got the Mallards doing their displays but I wouldn’t mind seeing the Hooded Merganser’s – let alone see the Hooded Merganser for a start.

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