Male Common Merganser, Puntledge Park, Comox Valley

Male Common Merganser sailing along the Puntledge River. Photo by K Clouston

This fishing bird returns with the salmon every fall and hangs around for a while.  The females are readily seen until spring and the males are less commonly around the park area.  These birds are about the size of our average gulls.  The males have a bright red bill and feet with a dark green head that often looks black like the colouring on the body which is a mix of black and white.  The female is very distinctive with a wild red ‘hairdo’ that can be sleeked down like the female on the left in the photo below, but seems to be unfolded to some degree most times that I see them.  Another feature of the females is the white chin patch which shows up well against the ‘red hair’ and the reddish bill which seems a little duller than that of the male but maybe only because of the difference in the colours on their heads.  These birds are not fussy nesters and will happily settle into a tree cavity, on the ground or in a nest box.  They are not fussy eaters either and will eat fish, insects, amphibians or anything else they can find in the water.

female Common Merganser, Puntledge Park, Courtenay, Comox Valley

A pair of female Common Mergansers on the Puntledge River, one with crest up and the other down. Photo by K Clouston