Fall is a fine time to flirt.
If you’re a Hooded Merganser, that is. We think of spring as nesting season, but these little ducks form pairs as early as fall. I didn’t realize the ducks are such advance planners, so when I noticed their lively antics on Lake Allegan below our home, I assumed the birds were just reacting to the November cold.
Then I noticed some familiar behavior.
I’ve often watched the mating choreography of Common Mergansers, whose animated courtship dances entertain me each spring. Watching the hoodies, I saw similar behavior and checked my go-to resource, the wonderful Birds of North America. Sure enough, those boys with their crests raised, rhythmically bobbing their heads, were flirting.
Here’s a snippet of what I watched for hours the other day.
My bird-book notations remind me that Hooded Mergansers stop by Lake Allegan each November, staying less than a week, presumably in migration. They re-appear for a few days each spring. This year, I counted sixteen Hooded Mergansers in one gathering, although mostly, they paddled around in groups of four to six.
The flirting wasn’t the only behavior that struck my funny bone. Watch how the other birds react when one duck takes a dive.
Was that a round of applause?