Nov 02 2011

Divers in a Dabblers’ World

Published by at 7:15 am under Water and Shore

In the city of Pittsburgh there’s a delta where waterfowl gather all year.

Nine Mile Run empties into the Monongahela at Duck Hollow to form a mud bar and shallows that attract a permanent collection of dabbling ducks.  In the summer the flock is mostly mallards.  In the winter gulls join the crowd.  During migration anything can show up.

Last Sunday the river was running high when I stopped by to see who was new. As usual the flock was dominated by dabblers — all of them mallards — but there were three birds who didn’t fit in.  All of them dive underwater to catch fish and crustaceans:  a pied-billed grebe, a hooded merganser (I thought it was female. I hear it’s an immature male), and a common merganser (female).

The common merganser has been there for months.  Birders have noticed she can’t fly but she can fish and has found safety in the mallard flock.

When the other two birds arrived the three formed a trio that cues on each other for feeding locations.  They even hang out together when resting.

They know they have something in common.  They’re divers in a dabblers’ world.

(Thanks to Thomas Moeller for the photo and history of this trio.)

3 responses so far

3 Responses to “Divers in a Dabblers’ World”

  1. Steve-oon 02 Nov 2011 at 11:15 am

    Wow, that’s a great looking bird! The hooded merganser.

  2. John Englishon 02 Nov 2011 at 1:43 pm

    I had ID’ed the immature bird as female. Unless this is another immature bird. Saw mine about 3 weeks ago as a solo bird in a raft of wood ducks. I could be wrong. Again – remind me to take BOTH binocs AND camera!!!

  3. Kate St. Johnon 02 Nov 2011 at 3:05 pm

    I had id’d it as a female too but I heard via Tom Moeller that it was an immature male. Maybe the bird will hang around long enough that he/she molts into something definitive.

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