While parked along the Sally Jones Causeway at Oklahoma’s Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge, I had a delightful visitor paddle into view – a striking male Hooded Merganser. He stood out from the White Pelicans I was photographing with his crisp black and white plumage. From my truck, I grabbed some shots of him as he swam along the bank.
As a species of fish-eating duck equipped with specialized hunting tools, the Hooded Merganser is a fascinating bird. Its name comes from the dramatic crest the male sports, which can be raised or lowered like a hood. This dapper duck uses its crested head feathers to attract a mate.
The Hooded Merganser I spotted was diving repeatedly, likely using his excellent underwater vision to hunt for fish, crayfish, and other aquatic treats. To aid its underwater sight, this species has uniquely adaptable eyes. They can change the refractive properties of their eyes and have an extra transparent eyelid that protects their vision while diving.
To grasp slippery prey like fish, the Hooded Merganser has a saw-toothed bill that looks almost like teeth. This serrated edge along their bill helps them keep hold of wriggling meals. Though I didn’t capture this male with any prey in my photos, his frequent dives showcased his adaptations as a specialized fishing bird.
While the female Hooded Merganser kept her distance farther out on the lake, I relished the chance to photograph this striking male as he put his diving and hunting skills on display. His crisp black and white fan of a crest was unmistakable even from afar – a true dapper duck come to call.
In the realm of the Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge, each day brings new surprises and opportunities to witness the beauty and brilliance of nature. This encounter with the Hooded Merganser was a reminder of the diverse and fascinating creatures that inhabit this incredible refuge. Until the next adventure unfolds, happy shooting, fellow nature enthusiasts!
Here is a photo I took of a Hooded Merganser last June on the Sally Jones Causeway: Female or Immature Hooded Merganser?
Here are some of the other birds I photographed that day: Close-Up Photos of a Double-crested Cormorant, American White Pelicans in Flight at Sally Jones Lake and An American White Pelican in Action
- Date: 11/28/23
- Time: 09:16 AM
- Camera: Canon EOS R7
- Lens: Canon RF 800mm F11
- ISO: 2500
- Aperture: 11
- Shutter: 1/1600
- Exp. Comp.: -0.3
- Lens (mm): 800
- Program Mode: Manual