The Hoodie, Yet Another Cavity Nesting Bird

by Larry Jordan on February 13, 2011

Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) photos by Larry Jordan

I found some Hooded Mergansers in breeding plumage at Turtle Bay, playing and splashing in the morning sun.  The “hoodie” is the smallest of the mergansers (the other two being the common and the red-breasted) and the most distinct of the three, the drake displaying his vertical, fan-shaped white crest quite freely.

This fellow was standing on a rock in the morning glow preening and showing off his beautiful plumage.  Click on images for full sized photos.

Here he is with his crest up bearing his distinctive white crest, bordered in black, and those bright yellow eyes.

Hooded Mergansers have a more varied diet than the other mergansers but have the same “sawtooth” bill.  They will dive and capture small fish, aquatic insects, and crustaceans, particularly crayfish, with the aid of eyes well-adapted to underwater vision1.

Hoodies are one of several duck species, including the Common Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Bufflehead and  Wood Duck,  that nest in tree cavities or nest boxes.  They usually start laying in late February or early March and possibly into April and May depending on latitude.  These ducks I saw at Turtle Bay were showing some mating activity so I’m sure they won’t be around much longer before they head farther north to breed.

The female Hooded Merganser was looking gorgeous as she preened on the rock next to the male.

The cinnamon crest, brown eyes and yellowish-orange lower mandible distinguish her from the drake.

Also her mostly brown plumage that she shows leisurely stretching atop this rock.

Here she is with her crest down and showing the white in her wings

And the juvenile male seen here didn’t have his adult plumage yet but was beginning to show some black and white markings on his breast.

I shot some video of him preening on the rock

To see more great bird photos, get on over to Bird Photography Weekly and World Bird Wednesday!

References: 1 Birds of North America Online

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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Halcyon February 14, 2011 at 7:10 am

Beautiful birds!


Dina J February 14, 2011 at 7:23 am

Great shot of the hoodies. Especially of the juvenile. I’ve never seen a young one.


Phil February 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Great pictures Larry. The field guides don’t show how much that hood expands and contracts and I suspect it’s not a bird that could be misidentified much?


Faye Brown February 14, 2011 at 6:46 pm

I love your photos.


Mike B. February 14, 2011 at 8:34 pm

I was very excited to find these birds in the river below our house and got some good video of the male head-bobbing. Hopefully we’ll have a family down there this spring!


Mick February 14, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Great photos. They are beautiful birds and the crest is fantastic.


Larry February 14, 2011 at 9:24 pm

@Halcyon they are beautiful ducks

@Dina I had never seen a juvenile before either

@Phil you’re right. The ID is pretty easy on this duck

@Faye thank you sis

@Mike cool! They have the same courtship displays as the other mergansers and goldeneyes

@Mick thank you. I love ducks!


Jill February 15, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Awesome ones, Larry, awesome! Hoodies are just plain beautiful. Loved the post!


Øyvind February 16, 2011 at 3:39 am

Great shots of the hoodies! Very beautiful and unique I guess 😉


Sallie (FullTime-Life) February 16, 2011 at 6:26 am

I love this bird — have only seen them once. Thanks for showing the male and female and in different poses — that’s very helpful. I can’t wait to see thee birds again.


Pat February 16, 2011 at 7:36 am

Beautiful birds! That crest is magnificent!


Dave Bancroft February 16, 2011 at 8:22 am

Stunning Hoodie…. very nice series of shots, you had a great day!


theconstantwalker February 16, 2011 at 10:23 am

Beautiful images of a lovely bird. Thanks for sharing.


dreamfalcon February 16, 2011 at 12:04 pm

You got a wonderful series here of an outstanding bird.
Isn’t the Smew also a kind of Merganser? (in the German name it sounds similar)


Springman February 16, 2011 at 3:29 pm

That…is an exceptional series on the Hooded Merganser. Your detailed captures and text are smashing! Great stuff Larry…;-)WBW


Larry February 18, 2011 at 5:21 am

@Jill thank you very much. They are beautiful birds

@Oyvind they are unique too, yes

@Sally you are very welcome

@Pat the crest on these males is amazing!

@Dave thanks. It was a fun time watching and filming them

@Andrew thank you

@Natalie, according to Wikipedia, “The Smew (Mergellus albellus) is a small duck, which is somewhat intermediate between the typical mergansers (Mergus) and the goldeneyes (Bucephala). It is the only member of the genus Mergellus.

@Dave thank you very much. I am loving World Bird Wednesday!


dreamfalcon February 19, 2011 at 1:51 am

Thanks Larry for the details – appreciate it!
In German the names are “confusing” because they make it sound like they are the same family: Gänsesäger are Common Merganser and Zwergsäger are Smew..


Sondra February 19, 2011 at 5:45 am

Awesome look at the hoodies!!


zoologirl February 19, 2011 at 3:33 pm

Great photos! Beautiful birds. I really like the video too! Fun music.


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