This elegant family of ducks may be spotted along the local waterways, including the Trent and Crowe rivers and Trout Creek. They appear, from these scattered observations, to be midwinter to early spring voyagers, seen between 28 December and 4 May. They appear singly, in pairs and small groups of up to five birds. If they are mostly northward migrants, as the dates suggest, then it is interesting that the hooded merganser is seen mainly in pairs, suggesting that they travel together, like many Canadian car-driving "snowbirds"! It also seems that they may take an alternative flyway on their southward journeys. Quite distinctive, they appeared at numerous other locations over this same period, in northern Michigan and across southern Ontario between Lake Ontario and the Ottawa valley.
The mergansers are types of sawbilled ducks, and eat appreciable amounts of fish (gamefish, but also predators of those fish). The common merganser is the largest form, and outside North America is known as the goosander. Both the goosander and the red-breasted merganser have enormous ranges that span the northern hemisphere. In summer, the range spans Canada, and includes Iceland, Scotland, Scandinavia and the whole west-east vastness of Russia. Related species include the hooded merganser and the Chinese merganser (Gooders and Boyer, 1986, pp.149-165).
The hooded merganser is the most inclined to breed near our area,
with a concentration on the Canadian shield north from Kingston
(Cadman et al., 1987, pp.98-103).
The later edition
(Cadman et al., 2007, pp.112-117)
indicates a strong increase in numbers for the hooded merganser,
notably in southeast Ontario.
At Presqu'ile park
(LaForest, 1993, pp.93-96)
the three species are common spring migrants.
They are also seen in the fall passage.
Similar patterns apply in the Kawarthas
(Sadler, 1983, pp.54-56).
Cadman,MD, Eagles,PFJ and Helleiner,FM (1987) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario. Federation of Ontario Naturalists and Long Point Bird Observatory, published by University of Waterloo Press, 617pp.
Cadman,MD, Sutherland,DA, Beck,GG, Lepage,D and Couturier,AR (editors) (2007) Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Ontario, 2001-2005. Bird Studies Canada,Environment Canada,Ontario Field Ornithologists, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, and Ontario Nature, 706pp.
Gooders,J and Boyer,T (1986) Ducks of Canada and the Northern Hemisphere. Dragon's World Ltd, 176pp.
LaForest,SM (1993) Birds of Presqu'ile Provincial Park. Friends of Presqu'ile Park / Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, 436pp.
Sadler,D (1983) Our Heritage of Birds: Peterborough County in the Kawarthas. Peterborough Field Naturalists / Orchid Press, Peterborough, ON, 192pp.