Saturday, April 30, 2011

Red-breasted Merganser; Late March Spring Migration through Northern Illinois

Red-breasted Merganser, Lincoln Park, Chicago, IL; 10/30/2010
Another diving duck that migrates through northern Illinois during the great spring migration is the Red-breasted Merganser. During the winter this duck can be found along all the saltwater coastal states of the Atlantic, the Gulf and the Pacific. It will spend its summers in northen Canada and Alaska. To get there, they need to cross through Illinois, but since they prefer saltwater over fresh water, they don't stay long. So it is not easy to spot these Mergansers on their northward trek. I haven't yet seen any in the Rockford area, but last fall I did see a few in the South Pond of Lincoln Park in Chicago. Unfortunately, by that time they already lost their breeding plumage, which is very beautiful with a black head with a shaggy crest and bright red bill, gray flanks with black and white wings and reddish brown breast (Below courtesy of Marie Read). In their non breeding plumage (Above) their head becomes tannish brown and their wings are less dramatic, but they keep their crest. A flock of these Mergansers are known as a "brace", "flush", "paddling", "raft", and "team" of ducks.
A Red-breasted Merganser in its breeding plumage. Photo courtesy of & Marie Read.


Anonymous said...

I swear I just saw one in Naperville this past week...but it is June, nearly this possible?!

jon said...

Anything is possible - birds don't read the bird guides that tell them where they're supposed to be, and can show up anywhere. Also, it is possible you might have seen a Common Merganser - Naperville is a lot closer to their summer boundaries than a ed-headed.

Anonymous said...

Saw a few in Belmont Harbor today. I'm not familiar with this species so am not sure if they were males in non-breeding plumage, females, or both. Either way they were beautiful.

Anonymous said...

I observed a beautiful pair of Red-breasted Mergansers on the West Fork of the North Branch of the Chicago River in Glenview, IL earlier today (3/6/2013). What a wonderful duck. The male had just a tinge of green in the otherwise black head. The female's head was a dark rust brown, darker than most pictures I have seen. The both had fabulous crests. I'm curious if they will be there tomorrow or if they will have moved on.

Anonymous said...

I just rescued one yesterday from the south side of Chicago. It could fly a bit, but appeared to have swallowed something. I took it to a local animal rescue.
I couldn't get over the beautiful plummage. Marvelous bird.