By Douglas “Birdman” Gray, Outdoor Afro Contributor
Last month’s Bird of the Month was a duck (American Black Duck), and my birding over last month somewhat compels me to remain with this family of birds (anatidae).
As winter is winding down, and temperatures are trending upward, ducks returning north stop at once frozen waters for the feeding opportunities. Just yesterday, while out at Eagle Creek Park here in Central Indiana, I was able to observe rather easily, 14 different species of ducks at the bird sanctuary. I was actually wishing that I had someone who rarely watches birds with me, just to give them an opportunity to see such a varying assortment of wonderful waterfowl. Most non-birders would have been simply amazed at the diversity of ducks, because they may have the false assumption that the only duck on the planet is the “Mallard.”
Seeing this multitude of dabblers and divers makes it a bit difficult to select one as “Bird of the Month,” but here it goes…
The featured bird this month is the Hooded Merganser.
The Hooded Merganser is a wonderful bird! These birds are secretive, quiet, and a bit wary; therefore, it can be quite difficult to get good looks at them without a spotting scope. However, I’ve been fortunate enough to get within 50 feet of a few and get some awesome looks!… And one is not disappointed when getting a good look at this bird. The males sport an elaborate white crest, bordered in black; which it raises and lowers like a fan. Black and white plumage accented with chestnut down its side, makes this showy creature, in my prejudiced opinion, one of the most handsome of birds.
Besides being quite stunning to look at, one of the things that impress me most about these birds is their ability to be swimming on the water one moment and flying at breakneck speeds the next, with just a few flaps of its wings. The rapid wing-beats of this bird gives it a “buzz-like” appearance when in flight.
If you’re interested in getting a glimpse of the Hooded Merganser, you have a pretty good opportunity, as they should be around for a couple of months. Good luck!!!
Douglas “Birdman” Gray has been birding almost all of his life. He grew up on a family farm near Clarksville, Tennessee, where they grew crops ranging from apricots to wheat, and most things in between. They also raised chickens, guineas, pigs, horses, and a cow named…….Apples. Doug’s grandfather identified the birds they would see daily on the farm.
Doug now resides in Indianapolis and works in Parenteral Engineering with Eli Lilly and Company. Most of his current birding takes place in Indiana, with a concentration on Central Indiana, where he leads bird walks for “Backyard Birds”. Doug can be reached at 317-255-7333.