Hooded mergansers are rather common in forested river, lake, and wetland areas of Wisconsin. Restricted to North America, “hoodies” nest in tree cavities and wood duck boxes. The birds are more common in the northern part of Wisconsin since the southern part of the state has fewer areas of forest cover surrounding water bodies.
With a broad diet, hooded mergansers can be seen diving and fishing, pulling crayfish and frogs or dragging macrophytes. One personable merganser has gained considerable fame in birding circles this winter at Frame Park in Waukesha, often photogenically gulping down crayfish just feet from shore. You can find its incredible photos on the Birding Wisconsin Facebook page.
Hooded mergansers will lay eggs in the nests of wood ducks, but in a tit-for-tat, wood ducks often lay eggs in the nests of hooded mergansers. Like wood ducks, hatched hoodies will jump from the nest (just one day after hatching), sometimes falling/flying over fifty feet. Upon landing, the young will follow the female to a water source where they are immediately able to dive and feed short distances.
Here at Faville Grove, you can find hooded mergansers migrating throughout the sanctuary. Open water scrapes and shallow ponds are excellent spots to find these birds. If you do find a hoodie, delight in its search for food as it probes the water and disappears for long periods, only to pop up with a wetland treat.
Written by Drew Harry, Faville Grove Land Steward