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Common Merganser

The common merganser (Mergus merganser) is a duck species and approx. 66cm long. It is a specialist among the fish catchers! This bird is slim and has a long, narrow and red beak.  Its feet are red too. The drakes and ducks can be easily distinguished during the mating season (autumn – spring). With their black-green head, a  black back and their frail neck tuft, they can be easily distinguished  from the females.  They are predominantly brown, have a deep black coloured head and a white throat. The neck tuft of the females is scrubby. During the summer  the males also have a plain plumage. One can tell the males from the females by their white primary coverts.

Common mergansers hibernate at the North Sea and East Sea Coast as well as on ice-free inland waters. As well as its breeding areas in Scandinavia, there are also smaller breeding areas in the Alps , among other places in the Tiroler Lech Nature Park. During their breeding season the common mergansers go to waters which are rich in fish and with old tree populations. This indicates a specific feature of this bird. Many duck species have their nests on the ground. Not so the common merganser! It is a cavity nester and uses tree hollows or crevices, sometimes even nesting boxes. Only the female is responsible for the upbringing of the offspring. It lays 7 - 14 eggs. Soon after hatching, the hatchlings, which are still unable to fly, leave their nests with an extremely brave jump into the water. 
Common mergansers hunt for fish, with a size  of 5 – 15cm.
its slim bill with its serrated horn tip is a perfect tool for their vigorous underwater hunt. If common mergansers start hunting, they locate their prey by ducking their heads under water and following it. They can stay underwater for up to 40 seconds.

The common merganser was regarded  as a pest and therefore hunted. Because of conservation regulations the populations of the common merganser in the Alps has now recovered.


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