Posted by: atowhee | June 26, 2020


Here are three images of a young Hooded Merganser.  The duck was in a canal along the southern end of the Auto Tour Route in the Lower Klamath NWR.  That would put it inside California, Siskiyou County.  These images were provided by Kirk Gooding and Shannon Rio who bird the area almost every week.  Shannon is head of the board for Klamath Bird Observatory.  She and Kirk are avid birders/observers in that region.

Kevin Spencer confirms the Hooded Merganser  breeds along the Upper Klamath Basin along Westside Road in the marshes there.   The only other ducks in the canal with the young Hoodie were a family of Mallards–coincidental?

Imagine being this lone diver surrounded by those limited dabblers, sliding along eating pond scum.  You, the diver, go beneath the surface for raw fish, crunchy insect larva, an occasional frog.  Yum.


What makes this all the more intriguing: Hooded Merganser are one of four cavity-nesting ducks *in or region.  They personally do NOT use open ground nests like most American ducks, including those nearby Mallards.  But there are numerous records of this species laying eggs in open cup nests.

The species account on Birds of the World does mention brood parasitism as being common for this species.

Late today I got this email from Alex Lamoreaux:

The dark eye confirms this as a juvenile, and with it’s bill still not quite full-grown it suggests that this one is recently fledged. I’ve heard from waterfowl biologists that Hooded Mergs will leave their eggs in open-nesting duck’s nests under certain conditions….Rare but given a good reason, they will do it. It’s unclear what scenarios lead to Hooded Mergs parasitizing nests, since they don’t always do that and more often raise their own clutches. 

*both goldeneyes, Bufflehead


Let’s get out and go birding!   But be safe Harry will lead a maximum of six cars with one family per car in and around the Howard Prairie and Hyatt Lake area from 9am til 2pm.  We’ll take virus precautions, there will be no scopes to share.  Every birder will have their own supplies: vehicle with full gas tank,  bino’s, camera, water and snacks.  Bring sanitizer to use when needed (toilets, etc.). July is an excellent time to see mountain breeding birds like the mountain bluebird, sandhill cranes, lazuli buntings, warblers and even . . . possibly the great gray owl.  Rendezvous site to be announced.

Donation:  $30 per person.  Checks to  be made out to KBO.  Contact Shannon Rio to attend at or 541 840 4655.

Harry Fuller has lived in Oregon since 2007.  Before retirement he managed TV and Internet newsrooms in San Francisco and London.  Harry has written three natural history books, including Great Gray Owl in California, Oregon and Washington, and San Francisco’s Natural History, Sand Dunes to Streetcars. Oregon State University Press published Edge of Awe in 2019.  It is an anthology of essays about Malheur and the Steens. Fuller contributed the chapter on Common Nighthawks at Malheur.

He has been leading bird trips and teaching birding classes since the 1990s. Currently he leads trips for the Malheur Field Station and the Klamath Bird Observatory and provides private guiding service.   He is consulting with KSWild in their fight to prevent logging of BLM-managed Great Gray Owl breeding habitat in Jackson County.

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