The Hooded Merganser is a very small diving duck and the sexes are distinctly different in their appearance. The Male Hooded Merganser has a black head with a large white patch and yellow eyes. The Female Hooded Merganser is a tawny cinnamon color. This Female is preening in evening light on a pond in Florida. The Hooded Merganser has a collapsible crest that can make their head very different shapes depending on the position of the crest. They dive for small fish and insects.
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Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge is one of my favorite birding spots. I was visiting this Delaware wildlife refuge this spring and saw this Mute Swan in the sunset light. I photographed the Swan as it started flapping it’s wings and then started running along the water surface and took off in flight. Mute Swans are beautiful and graceful and very exotic looking. They are also HUGE with a wing span up to 94 inches and weighing up to 30 pounds.
Mute Swans take off from the water by running really fast and flapping their wings until they build up enough speed to take off. They can fly up to 50 miles per hour! I had no idea until I read about Mute Swans that they are not native to the United States. They were all imported from Europe in the 19th century to “adorn” parks and large estates. The Mute Swan has flourished in the wild and are seen as “invasive” in some areas because they are very aggressive and also because they eat as much as 8 pounds of aquatic vegetation per day. Some references state that they can displace native bird species and can also be a danger to humans because of their fierce defense of their nests.
It is hard to believe that this beautiful, graceful Swan can be a hazard. I’ll be sure to always observe from a safe distance!
I was walking along a pond in Florida when I watched an Osprey catch a fish. Just after the Osprey shook the water off with his meal safely in tow, a Bald Eagle rapidly zoomed in and harassed the Osprey for several minutes. They flew around for several minutes but the Eagle seemed to be the better, faster flier. The Eagle circled around and came up behind the Osprey with talons forward and snatched the fish from the Osprey. The Osprey is the more skilled fisherman but apparently the Eagle is larger and stronger. It was quite an interaction! Size matters!!!
I had the privilege of watching these Sandhill Crane chicks for over a week as they went about their little lives. These chicks are only several days old. During the week I watched and photographed them, they seemed to grow and become more active right in front of my eyes! They eat insects fed by the parents and sleep under the parents at night. Sandhill Crane chicks can’t fly until around three months and the family stays together until the juveniles are around ten months old. Each Sandhill Crane pair usually only has one chick per year that survives so I sure hope both of these two little ones made it!
The Wood Duck is one of the most beautiful ducks. It is commonly known as the Carolina Duck although I have never actually found one in the Carolinas. They are one of the few ducks with claws that enable them to perch on branches and hang on to tree bark. Wood Ducks nest in cavities in trees but aren’t able to make their own cavities, they either use rotted areas in trees or cavities that other birds have built. They also readily nest in artificial nest boxes. A very interesting fact about Wood Ducks is that females will commonly visit other Wood Duck cavities and lay their eggs to be raised by another Female! It is apparently called “Egg Dumping”.