Male Red Breasted Merganser

Photographing the Red Breasted Merganser

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My Favorite Duck to Photograph

This time of year, most species of male ducks sport their breeding plumage. Often, their feathers are full of glorious colors that shimmer in the sunlight. Perfect for eye popping photos.

One of my favorite duck species to photograph is the red breasted merganser. These diving ducks are just passing through southwest Michigan in the spring, so there’s only a short window of time to photograph them before they fly north to breed. Red breasted mergansers can be seen in almost every river and pond during the spring, diving and swimming under water and foraging for small insects, fish and other aquatic creatures.

Photo of Red Breasted Male Merganser
Red Breasted Male Merganser, Calling Attention to Himself.
ISO 500; f/8.0; 1/2500 Second

The Business of Courtship

Going through my shots of the red breasted merganser makes me laugh out loud. Even the goofy poses look charming, charismatic and lovable. The glossy plumage (color, patterns, and arrangement of feathers) on the red breasted merganser is nothing short of delightful, especially on the males. Mergansers have bright red “devil eyes” and long, thin, serrated red/orange bills. Their ragged head feathers, especially after a dive, point out every which way, producing comical and sometimes absurd poses. While his head feathers go boinnggg, this punk bird proceeds to take care of business. This time of year, he is in the business of courtship; showing off and letting the females know how strong and desirable he is.

Photo of Male Red Breasted Merganser
At first I Thought This Male was Caught in Barbed Wire,
But It’s Only Plant Debris He is Trying to Get Off His Back
ISO400; f/8.0; 1/2500 Second

Photo of Red Breasted Merganser, Male
Photo of the Spiky Head Feathers of the Male Red Breasted Merganser.
ISO 1000; f/9.0; 1/2500 Second

Photo of Female Red Breasted Merganser
The Female Red Breasted Merganser is Also Very Colorful.
ISO 800; f/7.1; 1/2500 Second

Eclipse Plumage

The plumage on most male ducks does not stay shiny and new all summer, but becomes quite drab as the summer progresses and breeding has ended. This drab look is called eclipse plumage and makes duck ID very challenging for me. Luckily, the experts at WhatBird.com are always able to help. More information on eclipse plumage is available at this link.

An Anthropocentric View

I can’t help but be endeared to this species of duck. Somehow, I can relate to their absurd looks. I know that I’m transferring human characteristics onto animals, but as I wrote in my introductory post, taking the time to notice the similarities in the looks and behaviors of humans and birds is gratifying on a personal level. And when I get a good photograph, well that’s the best of all.

 

 

 

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