Rich B Young





First Spring Male

Hooded Mergansers,

April, 2010 to March, 2013





My first experience with a 1st Spring Male Hooded Merganser:

April 24, 2010.

1250 West Winchester St. (approx. 6400 South), Murray Ut.


The pond is a tiny body of water, in a park west of the Jordan River.


The bird was determined to be a Hooded Merganser, but its plumage was unique, compared to images I've reviewed.


















"Rich, Your mystery bird appears to be a Hooded Merganser, with no mixed parentage. The bird is a young male entering his second year of life. That means he retained from his hatch year feathers that look like his mother's, but with an eye (yellow) and beak (black) that look like his father's. In addition, he's starting to develop some of his adult male feathers. In your image of the bird standing in the vegetation, there are several all-black feathers with a white edge folded above the folded brown wing. Those black-and-white feathers are actually the innermost flight feathers, called tertials, that lay on the top when a wing folds inward like a fan."


Kristin Purdy, April 25, 2010






Fast-forward to Spring, 2011 and my first visit to

Mehraban Wetlands,

Draper, Utah

The lake below is one of 2 ponds, with this one being located in the northwest corner of the area.





In another temporary body of water on the east side of the wetlands,

I discovered this bird, on March 15, 2012


I remembered Kristin's description of

"First Year Male Hooded Merganser":

Key I.D. points were:

1) Yellow eyes (like adult male)

2) all-black beak (like adult male)

I believed I had identified this one correctly; but, I also forwarded this image to her.

She responded:

"I believe this current bird (March 15, 2012) is a first-spring drake Hooded Merganser,

due to the yellow eye, black beak, and odd plumage in a couple of places:

Around the eye, the spot on the face, and the white in the folded wings above the back.

Those areas may be his adult plumage coming in to match his yellow eye and black beak"

Kristin Purdy






A day or two later, I discovered that the permanent pond in the northwest corner of the Wetland had a BUNCH of them!

I had my own cool study site, with images such as these below.


Adult Male




Another male...




Opportunities for direct comparisons between

1st Spring males (2 on Left),

and Females (2 on Right)




Direct comparisons between Adult Males and 1st Spring Males...




And more...

(1st Spring male behind;

2 females forward).



Fast forward again...

March 2013

I relocated a small group of Hooded Mergansers this Spring, including more 1st Spring Males at Mehraban Wetlands.

They are currently at the same location as last year.

(Here we see the southwest corner of the pond, where the birds hide under the west brushy overhang.)



In contrast to last year (there were 3 pairs of adult Hoodies),

this year thus far, only one family has appeared.














The male captured a small catfish...




It was taking its time consuming it.




Enter one of my 1st Year Males...





The young male swam underwater behind the adult (with fish),

and abruptly bumped the adult from below!

I assume this behavior sometimes makes the fish-laden bird drop the fish!




Here we see both sexes, with the 1st Year male on the right.




This pond apparently has plenty of the smaller catfish, ideal for Hoodie food.




Notice the emerging marauder coming up from behind!




These are 2 1st Year males.




Another 1st year male...

This behavior occurred repeatedly, but I neve saw a fish lost!




another 1st year male in pursuit...












Watching behavior like this takes a bit of the viewer's time,

but it's worth it. (to me at least!)










End of story...



Finally, for those interested, below are images taken recently with the Canon SX50 HS camera I've been discussing...


1st spring male

(Canon SX50)




Adult Male...

(Canon SX50)





(Canon SX50)




1st Spring male

(Canon SX50)





(Canon SX50)