Mergansers On the Move

On two recent trips to the Lake this spring, we’ve witnessed large groups of mergansers. Red Breasted Mergansers to be exact. It was the first time we’d seen this species, though I knew immediately they were mergansers from the hours spent in the pages of field guides over my lifetime.

Master fisherbirds, the mergansers constantly caught their prey as we watched in wonder at their elaborate display of skills. Arching their backs, they dove below the surface and almost invariably emerged with a fish in their beak. Seagulls, not being diving birds like the mergansers, thus catching less fish, hung out along the sidelines, snapping up bites of fish that fell from the bills of the unique birds with the punk rocker haircuts.

A bit of research revealed that the fastest duck ever recorded was a Red Breasted Merganser, clocked at 100 miles per hour while being pursued by an airplane. The breed feeds on emerald shiners, gizzard shad, and invasive, non-native, round goby. They don’t compete for high quality walleye and yellow perch.

The mouth of the Huron River has been a major migrating hot spot. One day tallies of up to 250K thousand birds have been made there. An estimate of the breeding population in Canada was 250K.

It was wonderful to witness these intelligent, amazing birds, apparently taking a break from their migration toward their Canadian summer vacation.