Common Merganser’s Close Up

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I posted some images of Common Mergansers recently.  They were nice images but they were taken from a distance and I really wanted something showing a bit more detail.  Mergansers have been hanging out for much of the winter at the ponds in Reid Park, in urban Tucson.  Until recently, these ducks were quite shy and tended to stay in the ponds’ centers.  With the passage of time, however, they have become habituated to humans’ presence and they now occasionally swim pretty close to the ponds’ banks.

The other day I went to the park with the intent of getting a close up image of a merganser and I got one that pleased me very much.


Mergansers are predatory diving ducks.  They pursue small fish and other aquatic creatures underwater.  One of these ducks can stay submerged for quite a while.  I timed this individual when it dove and it often was beneath the surface for 30 seconds or more.

Look at this duck and you’ll see that it is superbly evolved for its lifestyle.  It has a narrow, elongated body, something that undoubtedly enables it to cut through water resistance more efficiently than can some of the heavier bodied ducks.  Notice particularly the duck’s beak.  A lot of ducks have flattened and wide beaks that are evolved for eating plant life or straining tiny creatures out of the water.  The merganser, by contrast, has a very long and quite narrow beak, shaped for seizing prey.  If you look closely at the beak you’ll see that it has numerous saw-like serrations, “teeth” that enable the merganser to seize and hold whatever it is that it is pursuing.

Now, I can’t account for the duck’s punk rocker crest.  That probably has a lot more to do with looking hot to mergansers of the opposite sex than it does with catching prey.  And the eyes — eyes that resemble those of a Toon in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?”  Well, my guess is that those bulging eyes probably are evolved to enable the duck to see well while under water, but that’s very much speculation on my part.

Image made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens @360mm, aperture priority setting, ISO 500, f8 @ 1/400.

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