Common mergansers and hooded mergansers are seen in great numbers in New England early spring.  Hooded mergansers ("hoodies") are so named for the head feathers that fans into a distinct hammerhead crest for males, less so for females.  Breeding drakes have a large white stripe on the head, absent in the female.  The eye is golden.  Hoodies are our smallest mergansers with an average length of 18" and a 24" wingspan, about the same size as a wood duck.  They do not congregate with other ducks and tend to swim about in pairs.  Common mergansers are considerably larger than hoodies with an average length of 25" and a 3 foot wingspan.  The male has an all-white body with a greenish-black neck and a day-glo orange sawbill with a long heavy base.   The female has a rust-colored head and a gray body.  In mid-summer a female common merganser may be seen on the water leading and babysitting a long line of chicks, sometimes including chicks from other families.  These photos were taken in March 2008 primarily at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary, Easthampton, Massachusetts
Hooded Merganserhooded merganser drakefemale hooded merganserhooded merganser pairhooded mergansersmale hooded merganserfemale merganser displayrepositioning fishmale common merganserCommon merganser female