Seven Drakes and One Hen


Hooded Mergansers are uncommon to rare in Alaska, especially in Interior Alaska. They might be North America’s most spectacular duck, although both the Wood Duck and Harlequin Duck can make pretty good claims to that title, too. WC was lucky enough to find a pond with 20-25 Hoodies in suburban Boise on Saturday.

Hooded Merganser Drake, Hiatt Hidden Lakes Nature Preserve

Hooded Merganser Drake, Hiatt Hidden Lakes Nature Preserve

Maybe “spectacular” in inadequate. They are equally handsome in flight.

Hooded Merganser Drake and Hen in Flight, Hiatt Hidden Ponds NaturePreserve

Hooded Merganser Drake and Hen in Flight, Hiatt Hidden Ponds NaturePreserve

Sure, the late afternoon light helps. But they are beautiful birds.

It’s a long time to breeding season, but it may be that this is the time of year that they pair up. In any event, there were seven drakes vying for the attention of one hen.

Drakes Courting a Hen

Drakes Courting a Hen

Courtship seems to involve paddling around the hen – cutting off the other drakes – and looking big, leaning forward, leaning back and puffing your chest out.

Works for Mergansers Anyway

Works for Mergansers Anyway

WC was strongly reminded of some of the bars in Eugene, Oregon that he used to hang out in during his mis-spent youth. Lots of the same behaviors. These guys had about the same level of success, too.1

But the hen did finally settle on one drake. The moment she swam up to the lucky winner, the others abandoned courtship efforts.

Success!

Success!

The blacks and whites, along with the shyness of the species, make photographing this species a challenge. The wind was gusting pretty good, adding motion blur to the challenges. But WC had a lot of fun.


  1. Approximately the same odds as at a bar in Fairbanks. 
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One thought on “Seven Drakes and One Hen

  1. I’m taking an online class though Cornell University on bird behaviors and including courtship behaviors. I wonder if I could borrow your photograph of the puffed up male leaning toward the female to show the rest of the class.

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