Nature Notes

Vol. XIV March - 1936 No. 1

A New Bird Recorded

We have added another bird, the Hooded Merganser, to the Park List, this summer. This interesting little "saw-bill" was recorded at Lake James on August 16.

Hooded Mergansers, like the Wood Duck, are inhabitants of the streams and mountain lakes, and the former is often confused with the Wood Duck in identity. The bright handsome plumage of the drake, black, white and chestnut, creates a rivalry in dress, that only the Wood Duck can surpass.

Hooded Mergansers do not migrate but stay with us all winter, frequenting the larger lakes and rivers and occasionally paying a visit to salt water tide-flats. Beside small fish, their diet consists of much vegetable matter, growing below the water's surface which they obtain by diving. In this way, the flesh of this Merganser has often a delicious game flavor and need not be classed with their larger cousins, the American or the Red-breasted Mergansers, as unfit for food on account of a fishy flavor.

"Hoodies", like Wood Ducks, choose a hole in a tree or snag for a nesting site. It is an amazing feat to the watching ornithologist to see this bird approach the hole at full speed and seemingly without hesitation in flight, enter the nesting cavity. The eggs, usually seven to eleven, are of an ivory white color, very round in shape and have the hardest shell of any of our North American bird's eggs. Ask the oologist, he knows, when he had to drill holes in them!

One spring day a few years ago, I noticed a pair of these ducks circling a pond. The female flew to a hole in a dead snag, the male alighting on the water below; an interesting investigation for the future. At the proper time (April 27) a visit was made and a few downy feathers sticking to the rough bark assured an occupied nest. Climbing up, I was more than surprised to find, that after laying four eggs, the bird had evidently been driven off by a Wood Duck who had completed the clutch by adding nine of her own eggs. This was too good a prize for the oologist to leave, but a later visit disclosed a new clutch of thirteen eggs, all Wood Duck this time, so she was relieved of all aquatic scandal or future foster-parentage.

E. A. Kitchin,
Naturalist Technician.

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