A Roller Coaster of Emotions

Hooded Merganser with merganser babies (left) and wood duck babies (far right)

By: Katie Bristow – Student Sustainability Technician

While travelling around the wetlands this spring, we came across an unusual sight. A Hooded Merganser was swimming around the lagoons with her ducklings. Upon closer inspection, the ducklings consisted of five Hooded Mergansers, and three (of what we thought at the time) Mallard Ducks!

After a few weeks observing them moving around the lagoon as one family unit, we noticed that the “Mallards” had left, and brought with them, 2 other Hooded Mergansers. They settled into their own family unit in the North Lagoon, spending the majority of the time under a large willow, or on some logs close to shore sitting among the Painted Turtles. Within the past week, it was discovered that the ducklings we thought were Mallards, were actually Wood Ducks! As both Hooded Mergansers and Wood Ducks are cavity-nesting birds, it does make sense that there may have been a slight mix-up in the nest, with eggs from one duck being cared for by the other.

Baby Wood Ducks and Hooded Merganser

Once born, the Wood Ducks may have split off originally at such a young age because of how they feed. A Wood duck is a dabbling duck, which means they put their head under the water, while their butt goes straight up in the air. Mergansers are diving ducks, which means they dive under the water to catch pray.

After a summer of watching these ducklings explore their surroundings, they have now all gone their separate ways onto new adventures!


Juvenile Hooded Merganser