Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Red-breasted Mergansers

While birding at a couple of my favorite places along the coast last weekend, I was able to get a few decent photos of one cool duck: the Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator).
 
Male Red-breasted Merganser in the harbor at Moss Landing
 
Found along the Pacific Coast during the winter months, the Red-breasted Merganser keeps to salt water (unlike its freshwater kin, the Common Merganser) and catches fish by diving; they are powerful underwater swimmers.  Birds, by definition, lack teeth, but Mergansers have sharply serrated bills that allow them to keep a tight grip on wriggly prey items.
 
Female (or non-breeding male) Red-breasted Merganser, Pacific Grove
 
Like so many of our waterfowl species, Red-breasted Mergansers are most abundant in California during the winter months.  They are often found in bays, estuaries and harbors, and I've had luck seeing them in the Monterey-Pacific Grove area as well as in the harbor Moss Landing.  
 
Red-breasted Merganser pair, Moss Landing harbor
 
Red-breasted Mergansers are migratory birds, and spend the warm, breeding season farther north, in the boreal forests of North America.  Unlike cavity-nesting Common and Hooded Mergansers, which both nest in tree cavities, Red-breasted Mergansers construct shallow feather-lined nests on the ground, sometimes beneath an overhanging rock or shrub, near freshwater lakes and rivers.
 

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