December's Bird of the Month: Hooded Merganser

By Katie Nelson
Harriers' Bird-of-the-Month Editor

Hooded Mergansers are small-bodied ducks that live in bodies of fresh water, primarily wooded ponds and lakes. The Stokes Guide to Birds describes them as having long tails and comparatively large heads with crests. The males are described as having brown flanks and black heads and backs. They have white breasts with a vertical black bar. When their crests are up they are white and span broadly, when they are down the head is black with a white streak behind the eyes. Females' crests are smaller and reddish brown, along with their flanks, breasts, and heads, which may also be light brown or gray. Juveniles look similar to females and will mature around the summer of their first year.

Hooded Mergansers can be seen anywhere from Alaska to Florida all across America depending on the time of year. Some are present year round in New Hampshire, while others migrate here. The Sibley Guide to Birds describes their call as alternating between wrrep, ca ca ca ca ca, and, pahhwaaaaa.  I have personally observed these birds in the calm upper waters of Vilas Pool in Alstead, New Hampshire. Their grace and beauty transfixes me, and although I have spent many mornings watching them, they never cease to amaze me, I hope everybody else also experiences observing these wonderful birds. Happy birding!

Please report any sightings of Hooded Mergansers to Katie at Any member of the Harriers who manages to snap a photograph of a "hoodie" in the month of December will receive a special holiday prize. Find some open water and start looking!