As a postscript to Dave’s helpful note on merganser ID, I’ve attached a “portrait” of a juvenile Hooded Merganser (Rockaway Beach, August 20, 2015) that illustrates the typical bill color pattern.
On Jul 30, 2017, at 9:39 PM, David Irons <llsdirons...> wrote:
> Greetings All,
> Given the considerable merganser confusion at Fernhill Wetlands in early July, I thought I would post a couple of close-up shots of a very similar juvenile Hooded Merganser that Shawneen and I saw at Koll Center Wetlands today. After the apparent "rediscovery" of a Red-breasted Merganser at Fernhill Wetlands on July 4th (Shawneen found a Red-breasted Merganser at this site in mid-May), a number folks who went looking for it and submitted eBird checklists that included sightings of Red-breasted Merganser. Many of those checklists either included photos of bird that looked very much like this one, or written descriptions that better fit a young Hooded Merganser.
> At first glance, young Hooded Mergansers can be a bit confounding. They are structurally dissimilar from adults, usually showing a much less angular head shape, a longer looking body and a proportionally larger bill. This gives them an overall shape that may be more suggestive of one of the larger merganser species (Common and Red-breasted). Hooded Mergansers are of course considerably smaller than Common and Red-breasted Mergansers, but a juvenile bird seen from a distance in the absence of a good size comparison might not easily be identified as a Hooded.
> As for the bill size, after many years of birding, I came to appreciate that juvenile birds often appear to have larger bills than their parents. I think that this is related to the amount of feathering around the base of the bill, with adults having more heavy feathering around the base of the bill that covers up the base, while young birds have more of the base of the bill exposed in juvenile plumage.
> Here are a few of things to remember when sorting out mergansers at this season. First, Red-breasted don't breed in Oregon or anywhere nearby, so a July Red-breasted of any age (particularly hatch-year) is unlikely in Oregon, especially inland. During the breeding season Common Mergansers tend to be river/stream ducks, while Hoodeds prefer ponds and small lakes. Secondly, adult Common and Red-breasted Mergansers don't have an all-brown or mostly brown "eclipse" plumage like we see in our common dabbling ducks. Even when they are young Common and Red-breasted Mergansers show noticeable contrast between their rusty to reddish-brown heads and their more grayish bodies. Juvenile Common Mergansers basically look like adult females with white throats. The two larger mergansers don't really have a plumage that looks mostly brown like this young Hooded Merganser. Lastly, Common and Red-breasted Mergansers show reddish bills at all ages. Adult Hooded have mostly black bills with some females showing yellow on the base of the mandible. Hatch-year Hoodeds, as seen in my photos from today, typically show extensive yellow on the mandible and some yellow along the cutting edge of the maxilla.
> For Portland area birders who haven't yet been to Koll Center Wetlands, it is a great place to study mid-summer ducks. Right now there are more than 100 Gadwall (mostly hatch-year birds) on the lake. You won't see any male Gadwall in their typical gray plumage. Initially, the Gadwall might be hard to sort out from the similarly abundant Mallards, but they are paler in the face, have more peaked fore crowns and habitually hold their heads with their bills pointed downward rather than horizontal. If you see really small ducklings at one of the local wetlands this time of year, they are more likely Gadwall than Mallards. For some reason Gadwall seem to fledge young later in the season than Mallards. There were at least four juvenile Hooded Mergansers on the lake as well, but we didn't see any adults.
> Dave Irons
> Beaverton, OR