Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hooded Mergansers and Long-tailed Ducks

Hooded Mergansers and 
Long-tailed Ducks
Lake Ontario
19 December 2013

    The brilliantly clear weather we have been experiencing of late yielded to dull, overcast conditions, with a mildly morose feel to the day. What better way to enliven it than a visit to the Lake.
    It always seems to me that the plumages of waterfowl the world over are nothing less than stunning, with the most marvelous array of colours, tints, hues and shades one could ever imagine. I have never been in a position where I have had to seriously match colours and I suspect that my wife might tell you that I would fall woefully short. If I simply had no choice I would turn to birds and replicate their plumage. How could I do better than that?
    People sometimes ask me to name my favourite bird and I am always at a loss to do so, for I simply don't have one. It depends on my mood, location, even the weather and the time of day. But high on a list of special birds would be two ducks commonly found on Lake Ontario at this time of year. I am speaking of Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus and Long-tailed Duck Clangula hyemalis. Both are truly spectacular. Long-tailed Ducks always seem to me to have been coloured by a young child with a box of crayons!
    Any concentration of more than a dozen or so fills the air with the most enchanting chatter you could ever hear. This gave rise to their previous name on this side of the Atlantic, Old Squaw. I have no difficulty understanding the pejorative context of this designation and supported the transition to the descriptive Long-tailed Duck.
    I believe that the term squaw was in origin a term of great respect as it relates to an Indian woman, but like so much of what pertains to our First Nations People, it was used for derogatory purposes by white invaders. I understand that a team of distinguished aboriginal women are trying to restore the honourable connotation  of the word, and somewhere deep inside I hope that Old Squaw could be reinstated without negative implications. It was such an evocative name.

Female Hooded Merganser with male Greater Scaup

Male Hooded Merganser

Male Hooded Merganser

Male and Female Hooded Mergansers Preening

Male Long-tailed Duck

Male Long-tailed Duck

Male Long-tailed Duck

Female Long-tailed Duck

Group of Long-tailed Ducks

David M. Gascoigne,
David M. Gascoigne,

I'm a life long birder. My interests are birds, nature, reading, books, outdoors, travel, food and wine.


  1. I have not met yet these ducks are beautiful :)

    Greetings from Poland
    Damian :-)

  2. They are very beautiful indeed, Damian. I hope you get to see them one day.

  3. I've never seen Kokardezaagbekken. I did not even know it existed. What a special duck and beautiful that what you saw that!! Also you ijseenden iik find very beautiful.


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