Thursday, October 23, 2014

Common Merganser (Mergus merganser) putong qiushaya

(68 cm.) Male: Large; long, thin hooked bill; greenish-black head and back; white underparts. Female/immature male: dark grey upperparts; pale grey underparts; brown head; white chin

The Common Merganser, also known as the “Goosander” is a member of the family of ducks, geese, and swans and is also a member of the subfamily, “Merginae”, the mergansers. All mergansers are also known as “fish ducks”, as they are fish-hunting ducks which have serrated bills which allow them to grip their slippery prey. Their unique bills also provide them with the nickname, “sawbills”.

The Common Merganser bears a superficial resemblance to a Mallard with its greenish-black head, but its red, serrated bill, larger size and black and white body distinguish it easily. As with many other bird species, the male of this species is decidedly more beautiful than the female. The female of this species has a brown head, grey body and duller red bill.

The Common Merganser is found throughout the Northern Hemisphere. In China, it breeds in the northeast and the northwest and winters in the southeast. In the breeding season it can be found in lakes and rivers in wooded areas.

As it is a cavity nester, the Common Merganser needs mature stands of trees from which to find a nest hole, probably an abandoned woodpecker nest. In areas with no trees, this species will find holes in cliffs and high riverbanks. The female lays a large clutch of eggs, usually 10-12 in number. Immediately after hatching, the chicks are taken in their mother’s bill to a lake or river where they can begin feeding.

In addition to fish, Common Mergansers feed on other aquatic animals such as crustaceans, insect larvae, mollusks, and even amphibians. All mergansers are diving ducks that plunge to often great depths in the pursuit of prey.

The Common Merganser is partially-migratory and will only leave the parts of its breeding range where all open water will freeze. In China, this means the birds will be absent in winter in all locations north of around Shandong province.
Photo by Dick Daniels

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