With their huge head and small body, they look a bit like a bobble-head doll. Their heads even move like a bobble-head, shimmying back and forth. It brings a smile to my face, but even so, I recognize these Hooded Merganser ducks are involved in some serious courtship behavior.
The bobbling movement is the drake's (male's) way of displaying his masculine prowess to attract females. A careful observer can see other courtship behaviors such as wing flapping, stretching and head pumping. It reminds me of a basketball game.
The size of the head crest is also significant. Under most circumstances, the shape of the male's head resembles that of the female. However, during courtship displays, it's puffed up, much like the opening of a fan in a Chinese dance.
But there's one downside to all this flashy male behavior – how do you protect yourself from predators? Certainly, the males stand out in open water. But closer to shore, their coloration resembles the patterns of vegetation reflected in the water.
Hooded Mergansers are winter residents of Southern California, flying here from their summer homes as far north as the forested wetlands of British Columbia. They are relatively uncommon and can be found in small ponds with shallow water, like Bridgeport Lake in Santa Clarita. Not surprisingly, they hunt by diving and feed on small fish, crustaceans and insects. For more information about these birds, check out the Cornel Lab of Ornithology webpage.
See you outside,
Our next Full Moon hike is scheduled at Towsley Canyon on Friday, February 2 from 6:30-8:30 PM. Towsley Canyon is located on the Old Road, west of I-5 and about 1/4 mile south of the Calgrove exit.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
For our complete hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, go to www.LAMountains.com.
To see what's playing on radio station KHTS, go to http://www.hometownstation.com/or tune in to AM 1220.