Hooded Merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus
One of the most spectacular of North American ducks, the male Hooded Merganser is notable both for its flexible crest, here fully erected, and for the striking black and white pattern formed by its head, breast, and back. These birds are regular but uncommon and skittish winterers in the Bay Area, much sought after by birders and photographers, and found in small numbers on fresh-water ponds and secluded salt-water bays and lagoons.
Like the other merganser species, the Hooded is a diving duck equipped with a thin serrated bill well adapted to catching aquatic creatures such as the crayfish shown in the picture above, and the fish in the next two below.
The female lacks the dazzling color scheme, but has both the expandable crest and the fish-catching equipment and ability.
A male on land shows the crest lowered.
A first-cycle male; plumage like an adult female, but bright yellow eye and all dark bill identify it as a male. Most females have some yellow in the bill; males at all ages have the all-dark bill. Female eye would be red or brown.
Above and below, pairs, which form during late fall and early winter.
A male with two females, during pair formation.
More scenes from pair-formation in fall and early winter: above, four males displaying for two females; below, one male chasing another.