Sunday’s Duck O’ the Week

Evolutionary biologist John Avise has a backlog of duck photos to help us through the pandemic. As I said, every Sunday I’ll post his photos of a single species, and your job is to guess the species. By the time we’re out of lockdown in a few years, we’ll know all the duck species!

Here are the photos. An ID, range map, and John’s Duck Fact O’ the Week is below the fold:

Click “read more” to learn the ID and other stuff about the species.



John’s ID and notes:

Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator)

Like other Mergansers, this species has small serrations on the inner margins of its long thin bill, thus allowing it to grip slippery fish that comprise much of its diet.  As is true of most diving ducks (whose legs are far back on the body), before taking flight these birds must run or “taxi” on the surface of the water (see photo).  The shaggy crest and white speculum are helpful field-marks for this sexually dimorphic species that winters in sheltered saltwater estuaries along both coasts of the United States and Canada.


JAC: Here’s a range map from the Cornell site and a video of the ducks taken at Montrose Point here in Chicago:



  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    This is a cool special feature

  2. Randall Schenck
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    The duck that bites.

  3. Liz
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    They look a little like common mergansers. It’s neat how they look so similar.

  4. rickflick
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Not as flamboyant as the hooded merganser, but still a charming bird. With that extensive range, nobody should fail to see it.

  5. Avis James
    Posted April 19, 2020 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    I am really enjoying these posts!

  6. Posted April 20, 2020 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Common merganser

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