Birds of Seabrook Island

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ANECDOTES

  Red-breasted Merganser
 
 

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  Order Anseriformes - Waterfowl
   Family Anatidae - Ducks, Geese, and Swans
      Subfamily Anatinae - True Ducks
         Tribe Mergini - Sea Ducks
  Waterfowl vary in size - from teal to swans. They all have webbed feet and dense, waterproof plumage. Most nest on the ground and the nest is lined with down plucked by the female from her breast. Except for two small groups not found in North America, all belong to one (or two) families.
Ducks, Geese, and Swans are waterfowl with their bill finely serrated or grooved on the edge. Their tongue is fleshy. Their front toes are webbed. Males have a functional penis. They are strong fliers and many migrate long distances. 
True Ducks are sexually dimorphic. The female incubates and cares for the young - the male usually deserts early. Ducks undergo a simultaneous molt of their flight feathers and are flightless until the flight feathers of the alternate plumage regrow. Thus, males wear their nuptial plumage on the winter grounds where pair formation occurs in most species. 
Sea Ducks
are active swimmers and foot-propelled divers.
Mergansers have long, thin serrated bills and long necks. They are specialized for catching and eating fish. They have serrated bills which help them grasp their prey. Mergansers fly rapidly on pointed wings with shallow wing-beats. Most nest in tree cavities, nest boxes, or on sheltered ground.
 
Cooperative Feeding
 
     
  Red-breasted Merganser, Mergus serrator
 
Cornell     USGS     Wiki     ToL     EoL
        WINTER - Common / Common
            LAGOON, ESTUARIES, BAYS, SHALLOW COASTAL WATERS (salt water)
MORE PICTURES
 
   Red-breasted Mergansers have a ragged crest. Their bill is thin and reddish. Males have green heads, a neck collar, and white secondaries and coverts in their wing. Females have brownish heads with wispy crests. They winter primarily in salt-water environments.
Red-breasted Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
 
Male Red-breasted Merganser.
Pitt St., Mt. Pleasant
     
Female Red-breasted Merganser.
Lagoon. April 2007.
   
  RANGE: The species breeds from the Great Lakes northward and westward to Alaska, the Arctic coast, and east through the Canadian Maritimes. They have a Holarctic distribution. They winter broadly on both coasts and the Gulf, south to Baja in North America.
  BREEDING: Monogamous. One brood. Females build a nest sheltered under vegetation or in tree roots or driftwood, near water - sometimes they nest in a hollow stump or shallow burrow. The nest is lined with vegetation and down. Nests may be close together, appearing colonial. Females lay 7-10 (5-13) eggs, sometimes laying in other duck's nests. The male departs after incubation begins. They incubate for 29-35 days and development is precocial. Young leave the nest within a day after hatching and are tended by the female. Broods may combine tended by one or more females. Young are deserted after a few weeks. They are able to fly after 59-64 days.
   Adults do not breed until they are two years old.
  DIET: Red-breasted Mergansers feed mostly on fish but eat some crustaceans and aquatic insects. Young birds eat mainly insects. They forage by diving and swimming underwater, sometimes hunting cooperatively to drive fish into shallow water.
  VOICE: Female gives a "prek prek..." The male is mostly silent.
  NOTES:
   Checklists -
      Seabrook. Kiawah - common fall through spring.
      Coastal - common winter visitor. Hilton Head - common winter visitor. Cape Romain - common/rare (breeds)/common/common.
         Huntington Beach
- common October - November; abundant December - February; common March - April; rare May.
   CBC: ACE 250, 31, 40, 129, 146, 203, 7, 0; Charleston 40, 141, 23, 51, 27, 3, 9, 4;
            St. Helena/Fripp x, x, x, x, x, x, 15, 6; Hilton Head 1026, 237, 144, 59, 80, 5, 29, 225; Sun City/Okatie 0, 0, 1, 12, 4, 4, 3, 20;
            McClellanville 66, 49, 44, 20, nc, 70, 35, 43; Winyah Bay x, x, 12, 21, 40 11, 9, 29; Litchfield Pawley's 136, 5282, 142, 177, 391, 109, 41, 125.
   SCBBA: Two records, Charleston Co.
   P&G: Common winter visitor, casual breeder. 5 reports of nesting, all from Charleston Co.
   M&P: Seven cases of breeding verified. High coastal count, 615, McClellanville.
   Avendex: 11 records, May - September (no winter documentation).
   Potter: Common to abundant winter resident on salt water. The species breed locally along the coast southward to Charleston. Summer birds are most likely non-breeding individuals.
  ●  Red-breasted Mergansers are often seen from the beach swimming on the ocean or flying over it in winter. They are also common in the Kiawah River and were present in the (former) lagoon on North Beach. I have also seen them in smaller tidal creeks and on Palmetto Lake. In general, however, they will stick to salt water and are common in winter. They do not occur where Hooded Mergansers are common and I've never seen the two species together.
       
    Banner - 4 Red-breasted Mergansers with a couple of Black-bellied Plovers and some other shorebirds. Lagoon, North Beach.
 
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