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Early Nesting Hooded Mergansers Seeking Tree Cavities

4-6-15  hooded merganser, male 367In northern New England you are most likely to see Hooded Mergansers in the spring and fall when they are migrating to and from their breeding grounds in northern Canada (some nest in New England, as well). Hooded Mergansers tend to arrive in their breeding areas as soon as the ice starts to melt, and have been known to start laying eggs in March in Massachusetts and April in Vermont. Often some of the earliest eggs laid in a nest will freeze and crack and never hatch.

Hooded Mergansers are cavity nesters, frequently choosing trees that are close to ponds, marshes, swamps or streams. They compete with Wood Ducks for nest boxes put out by humans, and females of both species may lay eggs in the same nest, with one or the other incubating the eggs. Sometimes the duck that initiated the nest does the incubation, but more often the hen laying the majority of the eggs will do so. Because both species have the same incubation period, all the eggs hatch at the same time.

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5 responses


    Great photo! And I love the idea of inter-species cooperation in the nest.

    April 6, 2015 at 7:40 am

  2. I have yet to see one of these, but would love to. We have American mergansers in the river, that only arrived a few days ago.

    April 6, 2015 at 9:02 am

  3. Penny March

    I will check today on the river upstream from Taftsville where I usually see them

    April 6, 2015 at 9:08 am

  4. Betsy Miller

    Does that mean that the duck who hatches the ducklings raises all of them as her own, even if they are not the same type?

    April 6, 2015 at 9:37 am

  5. Robyn Deveney

    I had the same question, Betsy!

    April 6, 2015 at 9:44 am

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