Monday, February 18, 2013

Female Red-breasted Merganser (RBM)

Here is the female version of the species. As with most hens, the general pattern is much more subdued. This is true of females because their mottled feather pattern functions as camouflage during the nesting season, making it harder for predators to discover their nests. Notice how she is ploughing the water because of her speed like the male from yesterday's post.

With the spiked feathers, RBM's give you the general impression that they are very energetic birds. That is not a mistaken assumption. They were constantly on the move as they hunted for small fish. I couldn't determine whether they were driving a school of fish before them or whether they were just hoping to randomly find something to eat, but they were fishing as a unit.

One of the most amazing sights I have seen was a flock of cormorants fishing as a unit. You might think, what is so special about that? When you realize that they normally fish alone or occasionally with one other bird, to organize a coordinated hunt takes it up a notch as far as how they communicate their desire to hunt as a group, where and when they are going to do it and a host of other behavioral questions.

I was less impressed with the mergansers fishing as a unit and I guess it is because I suspect they fish like this a good deal of the time - at least at this time of year when they are flocked up and not spread out nesting as smaller family units.

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