Tag Archives: common merganser

Merganser Ducklings

I love it when Mama Merganser parades her little ones past our house on the Alsea River!  One or two always seem to hitch a ride on her back.

Mama merganser with 7 chicks hitching ride
Mama merganser with 7 chicks hitching ride

At least until she dives.  If they’re going to get stronger, they’ve got to do it on their own!

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Merganser Chicks in Formation

The Merganser chicks’ wings are developing.  They aren’t big enough to fly yet but they can dive and they look like they are flying under water.

Short wings of juvenile Common Mergansers
Short wings of juvenile Common Mergansers

Mama Merganser is on the left in the next photo.  Compare her wings, which include a white patch, to her chicks.  They’ve had their nap and are now ready to get back to business.

common merganser female with chicks
Mom getting her chicks prepared for take-off

Before this family landed on the rocks of the Alsea River, Mama Merganser was chasing something in the river.  I couldn’t see what it was but 2 Mallards also came from across the river quacking at the same thing.  Whatever it was never came back.  The Mallards didn’t even have chicks with them.  I thought it was cool that they joined forces with Mama Merganser.

Common Merganser with 11 chicks
Common Merganser with 11 chicks!

With as many predators who love the tender merganser veal I’m always impressed by the number of chicks a mom is able to raise.  This mom has eleven chicks and it is probably due to their strict obedience to her.

Who Goosed the Merganser?

Common Mergansers are voracious eaters.  These 4 siblings know just where to find the fish in the Alsea River.

merganser siblings
Siblings compare notes

I didn’t see them catching any crawdads but there were plenty of mudcats, or sculpin, being swallowed.

2 Mergansers each have a fish
2 Mergansers each have a fish

It actually looks like a terrible way to die for a fish.

It takes a while for the duck to get it into the right position to swallow so the fish doesn’t spread its fins.

merganser with fish
That’s a big tale to swallow

I keep wanting to lend him my opposable thumbs.

I watched, several times, as one duck would come up under another who had a fish.  It looked like they’d try to scare it into dropping it.  In this video, though, I think one is trying to grab it from the other.  I’m not sure who won but the fish clearly did not.  I choose to believe the first duck hung onto his food and got to finish his meal.  But I’m an optimist and don’t like thieves…even if they are just siblings at the dinner table.

Mom Merganser Fishing with 16 Ducklings

Kudos to this mama merganser!  I counted at least 16 babies with her.  I can’t imagine keeping up with this many kids at once.  I’ve seen the Common Merganser mom defending her chicks though.  She is not to be reckond with!

[youtube https://youtu.be/7ADPSd6tFMM]

They all gather when she gives a soft quack.

16 common merganser ducklings
I count 16 Common Merganser babies

And she does it all with style; not a hair out of place.  🙂

merganser mom with ducklings
Common Merganser mom with ducklings

The ducklings were having trouble fighting the current in the fast water so Mama took them across the rocks – in single file.

merganser ducklings
Marching across the rocks to get past the whitewater

Merganser Chicks Ride on Mom’s Back

What an awesome day on the Alsea River!

tidewater alsea river
Head of tidewater on the Alsea River

There were osprey, kingfishers, mallards and common and hooded mergansers.  All the ducks had chicks.

mallard hen and chicks
Mallard hen with chicks

The mallard hen had 8 or 9 chicks with her.  It’s hard to count those little bobbing heads while trying to keep up with mom in the rapids.  Watch the video of the mallard chicks following mama across the river.  They look like they are connected by elastic.

[youtube https://youtu.be/dKQULrAl_gM]

Click on YouTube (bottom right) for a larger video.

A Common Merganser hen had 11 chicks with her today.  She was VERY protective.  She defended them from another female merganser who came too close.

merganser mom defends chicks
Common Merganser mom protects chicks from other merganser

A Hooded Merganser had 3 chicks with her today but I didn’t get a photo.  One of her chicks got mixed in with the Common Merganser’s chicks.  The Common Merganser Mom attacked the Hoodie chick, throwing it across the water several times.  it was a violent attack on such a harmless little baby.  I wondered if she killed the chick but later saw the family intact.  I don’t understand what the threat was.

merganser chicks resting
Common Merganser Mom resting with chicks

Then I finally saw the merganser chicks riding on their mom’s back!  The only way she can get some peace is to dive.  🙂  Watch the video of the Common Merganser mom and chicks:

[youtube https://youtu.be/0HXZEN58tIU]

Click on YouTube (bottom right) for a larger video.

Mergansers Chasing Smolt in the Alsea River

This Great Blue Heron is fishing for smolts but he is not nearly as successful as the mergansers.

Heron-1

Usually the mergansers just dive to get crawdads or mudcats off the bottom of the river.  But smolt were released upriver this month.  Steelhead smolt must be fast because the chase is on!  Check out this video.

[youtube https://youtu.be/Wa4rGNtvfwA]

According to ODFW 20,000 stock and 80,000 wild stock Winter Steelhead, size 6 fish/pound, have been or will be released into the Alsea River this month.  40,000 stock Winter Steelhead are also to be released into Five Rivers.

Read more about the Alsea River Hatchery.

Merganser Courtship

Springtime is full of activity as ducks try to attract the attention of the opposite sex.  Males attract females with their vibrant colors.

Male Common Merganser
Male Common Merganser

The female common mergansers don’t change their plumage much, if at all.

Female Common Merganser
Female Common Merganser

But their attitude seems to change quite a bit during courtship.  They choose a mate and chase the other males away.  Sometimes it looks like she’s even grouchy with her mate though.

(By the way, I don’t have any control over what videos Youtube displays after mine. Please tell me if it shows offensive video choices.)

[youtube https://youtu.be/ugfeZASnaQI]

When it’s time to mate, though, the female gets very quiet.

[youtube https://youtu.be/TK8BkymqDV8]

She probably laid stretched out in the water for about 5 minutes before her partner was ready.