Mergansers’ “Toothed” Bills
Hooded and Common Mergansers can be found year-round in most of the Northeast. The bills of these cold-hardy, fish-eating ducks are distinctive in that they may be four times as long as wide. In addition, their structure differs from the bills of other ducks in that most ducks have plates (lamellae) or ridges on the cutting edges of their bills that let water escape from the bill when they bring prey to the surface of the water. In mergansers, these plates have been modified to look like saw blades – they aren’t true teeth (birds lack teeth), but are very toothlike – perfect for capturing slippery fish. (Photo: juvenile Common Mergansers)
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