Bird Quiz: Hooded Merganser

Bird Quiz: Hooded Merganser

Michele Berger
Published: 01/26/2012

A male hooded merganser with his hood up. Photo by Rick Leche (Creative Commons).

On Day 12 of the 2012 Bird-A-Day Challenge, Features Editor Rene Ebersole saw a hooded merganser, an adorable-but-goofy looking fish-eating duck. (Click here to learn more about the BAD challenge. And don’t forget to let us know that you’re participating, through Facebook or Twitter, @audubonmagazine.)

Take our quiz below to determine how much you know about the hooded merganser. Scroll past the picture for the answers. And by the way, check in with The Perch tomorrow—and every Friday—for a recap of the most recent Bird-A-Day challenge info.

1. True or False: The hooded merganser is the largest of the mergansers and the only one of the three species found only on North America.

2. How does the hooded merganser find food?
a. By sight, spotting its prey then diving underwater to grab lunch.
b. By touch, using its feet to grab small fish.
c. By smell, sniffing out its next meal.
d. By taste, using clues from its current meal to determine where, for example, a school of fish lives.

3. Where does the species nest?
a. On the beach.
b. In reeds.
c. In rock beds.
d. In tree cavities.

4. True or False: The hooded merganser and the Canada goose are in the same family.

5. What does it mean when a male flashes his hood?
a. Anger
b. Part of a courtship ritual
c. Territorial behavior
d. None of the above


A hooded merganser brood. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife.

1. True or False: The hooded merganser is the largest of the mergansers and the only one of the three species found only on North America.
False. While the hooded merganser is the only of the three species restricted to the continent, according to Birds of North America online, it’s actually the smallest, weighing in at a max of just under 2 pounds.

2. How does the hooded merganser find food?
A, By sight,
spotting its prey then diving underwater to grab lunch. According to Cornell’s All about Birds: “The merganser can actually change the refractive properties of its eyes to enhance its underwater vision. In addition, the nictitating membrane (third eyelid) is very transparent and probably acts to protect the eye during swimming, just like a pair of goggles.” Cool!

3. Where does the species nest?
D, in tree cavities. They will also nest in downy-lined nest boxes. The female sets up shop, scouting for an appropriate cavity the summer before a pair attempts to breed. Clutch size ranges from 5 eggs to as many as 44 (Birds of North America online).

4. True or False: The hooded merganser and the Canada goose are in the same family.
True. They both fall into the Ducks, Geese, and Swans category of the Anatidae family. The wood duck, gadwall, and 40 other species fall into this group, too.

5. What does it mean when a male flashes his hood?
B, courtship.
A common use of the crest is what Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park calls the head throw. “A male raises his crest and swims parallel to a female. He throws his head back sharply until it touches his back and then brings it forward slowly while emitting a rolling frog-like croak.” What a way to wow the ladies.
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