Category Archives: Ducks

Diving Ducks: Common Eider

Photo of Common Eiders

Common Eiders are the largest ducks in North America. Adult males stand out in their black-and-white breeding plumage (also note their greenish nape), whereas brown-patterned females are easy to miss, especially when resting on seaweed-covered rocks. Immature males are mostly dark with a noticeably white chest.

Common Eiders spend much of their time close to shore, often frequenting coastal harbors, where they dive to feed on various shellfish, like Blue Mussels, and assorted crustaceans, like Green Crabs and Atlantic Rock Crabs. Back in 2014, I filmed a pair at the public beach in Biddeford Pool.

Visit All About Birds to learn more about these familiar saltwater ducks. To view the following images in full-size, click here.

Diving Ducks: Hooded Merganser

Photo of Hooded Merganser (male)

Hooded Mergansers are compact diving ducks who specialize in catching and consuming small fish and other aquatic prey. They spend winter in marshes and along rivers, and after ice-out they move to secluded wooded wetlands where they seek out a natural cavity (or nest box put up by people) in which to nest. Females lay about a dozen eggs, but nests may occasionally contain many more eggs, with contributions from several hens. Shortly after hatching, the fluffy ducklings leap from their natal cavity and, if they don't drop straight into the water, follow their mother to a nearby wetland.

To learn more about these cavity-nesting water birds, visit All About Birds. To view the following images in full-size, click here.

Diving Ducks: Ring-necked Duck

Photo of Ring-necked Ducks

Unlike Mallards and American Black Ducks, who largely dabble for food, Ring-necked Ducks primarily dive to feed on aquatic vegetation and invertebrates. Males are recognized by their ringed-bill (their maroon neck-ring is difficult to discern) and the white "spur" separating their black chest from their gray sides. Females are warm brown, and have a light eye-ring which separates them from Lesser and Greater Scaup females.

Ring-necked Ducks can be found in northern New England during nesting season, and throughout New England during spring and fall migration, as open water allows. Aside from the photo of the molting female, taken in late summer in Bridgton, ME, these photos were taken this spring in coastal southern Maine.

Learn more about Ring-necked Ducks at All About Birds. (To view the following images in full-size, click here.)

Dabbling Ducks: American Black Duck

Photo of American Black Ducks

American Black Ducks can be found in both fresh and salt-water wetlands, often in the company of Mallards. Both species are primarily dabblers, feeding at or just below the surface, but on rare occasions, I've watched members of both species dive out of sight, surfacing moments later, presumably with a mouthful of food.

American Black Ducks have dark brown bodies with lighter brown heads. A male's bill is yellow, female's olive-green; both have black nails at the tip. The blueish wing patch in their secondaries -- called a speculum -- is bordered with black, unlike the white-bordered speculums of Mallards (the photo below highlights an American Black Duck in a crowd of Mallards). Hybrids of the two species (an example is pictured in Dabbling Ducks: Mallard) are fairly common, and these birds often show a mixture of plumage characteristics.

Photo of American Black Duck with Mallards