Monday, December 16, 2019


29 November 2019 was a three-merganser species day at Woodard Bay near Olympia, Washington. Hooded Mergansers, not shown in this post, are relatively easy to identify. Common and Red-breasted mergansers can be harder to tell apart. Usually Common Mergansers are known by the sharp line of demarkation between their dark heads and white breasts. You can see this line clearly in the first photo. The second photo shows an example of when this field mark is less obvious. There appears to be a sharp line, but the breast is less white. Here you have to rely more on bill shape. The bill of the Red-breasted Merganser in the second photo is narrower than the thicker Common Merganser bills. The Red-breasted Merganser’s bill is also ever-so-slightly upturned. In any event, mergansers are ducks whose serrated bills help them capture fish.

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