The unusual merganser duck first gained its high popularity over three hundred years ago. It was then that she first appeared in many European countries and immediately became the favorite of their inhabitants. Duck merganser and to this day is highly valued by people. It is recognized as one of the most beautiful waterfowl. Despite its popularity, few people can boast at least minimal knowledge about this bird species.
Species origin and description
The beautiful wild merganser duck is known not only for its bright and unusual plumage, but also for its impressive size. The weight of these birds can reach two kilograms. The most active weight gain occurs in the fall. Mermaids are migratory birds. In winter, they prefer to move to countries with a warm climate. However, they are often seen in the winter season in Kamchatka, in Primorye and on the coast of the Sea of Azov.
Video: Merganser duck
Merganser ducks belong to the order Anseriformes, a subfamily of true ducks. They are part of the family of ducks and are separated in it into a separate genus of mergansers. The reason for the emergence of a separate genus is the presence of a large number of similarities between mergansers of various species. They all have some of the same anatomical features, a similar lifestyle, similar behavior and food preferences.
Among the common characteristics of mergansers, one can distinguish:
- long, narrow and bent to the top beak. On its top you can see a small horny growth. And instead of standard duck plates on the beak (for collecting plant food), these ducks have sharp teeth. They are located along the edges and are designed for easier consumption of fish;
- elongated neck, torso. This feature makes them very similar to loons, grebes;
- the predominance of fish in the diet. Mergansers practically do not eat plant foods;
- excellent natural diving abilities.
The classification of mergansers ducks has changed several times throughout time.
Today, it is customary to distinguish four types of mergansers:
- scaly. This is the oldest type. Half of the body of such a feathered bird resembles a scale pattern. Such birds live only in the east;
- big. It is the largest representative of the mergansers. Very often it is confused with a goose. The big merganser nests both in the east and in the west;
- long-nosed. The weight of this animal is one and a half kilograms, the length does not exceed fifty-eight centimeters. This species is the most common and is found throughout the habitat of mergansers;
- Brazilian. The rarest variety – the number does not exceed three hundred and fifty individuals. Breeds only in the west.
Appearance and Features
The appearance of merganser ducks depends on their variety. However, there are a lot of anatomical and external similarities between different species. So, all mergansers differ in impressive dimensions. Their length is, on average, about sixty centimeters. The weight of such birds can reach two kilograms. The wingspan of mergansers exceeds eighty centimeters. However, these are average indicators, because in nature there are individuals of smaller dimensions.
Also, a distinctive feature of mergansers is a narrow and long beak, which is bent at the end. On the sides of such a beak are small teeth. They help the animal catch and eat fish. These ducks have a long neck, which is not typical of other members of the family. The legs of mergansers are rather short, they have a wide leathery lobe. The tail is rounded, short. The wings are pointed.
Interesting fact: Unlike other ducks, mergansers are rarely eaten. The meat of these wild ducks can be infected with a tapeworm, has an unpleasant odor. A tapeworm can grow up to several meters in the human body.
The most characteristic feature of mergansers is the spectacular color of feathers. All species of these ducks are painted in very unusual color combinations. So, a large merganser is painted in black, dark gray, white and pink. The scaly appearance is colored brown-olive, red or ash-blue. The back of this animal is decorated with gray and white stripes, which are very reminiscent of scales. The Brazilian merganser is distinguished by its bright red beak, black head and neck, greenish-brown upper body and light belly.
Where does the merganser duck live?
The merganser duck is considered a migratory bird, but this is not entirely true. Some species prefer to lead a sedentary lifestyle. For living, these birds choose territories with a temperate and warm climate. In summer, they live on the Eurasian continent, in its central strip. There mergansers appear in early spring. They always arrive almost the very first, as soon as it gets a little warmer outside. In winter, animals are the last to leave their habitual habitats — when sharp colds come and all water bodies freeze.
For nesting, mergansers like to choose forest places. But occasionally their nests can be found in coastal areas and even in the mountains. Such differences in habitat are associated with the existence of many species and subspecies of mergansers. An important criterion when choosing a place for these birds is the presence of a water source with suitable food near it. These birds eat fish. The natural habitat of merganser ducks is very extensive, which is associated with the presence of different species of birds.
- China. Only those places where there is a lot of fish;
- eastern and western hemispheres, Central Asia, California lakes, Himalayan mountains. In these territories lives the largest representative of ducks – a large merganser. At the same time, in some places, mergansers live settled;
- Far East of Russia, northern Japan, Southeast Asia. This is the natural habitat of scaly mergansers;
- coasts of Western Europe, Great Britain. A long-nosed species lives here;
- reservoirs of Paraguay, Argentina, Brazil. This territory is inhabited by the rarest species of merganser – Brazilian.
Now you know where the merganser duck lives. Let's see what this bird eats.
What does the merganser duck eat?
If most varieties of ducks eat plant foods or have a mixed diet, then mergansers are exclusively carnivorous. They feed on what they find while fishing. This type of duck can easily cope with fish, the length of which reaches twenty centimeters. They deftly wield their beaks and are excellent divers. The process of their fishing is very interesting. First, the ducks lower their heads under the water, looking for a suitable fish. Then they quickly dive, grab the fish with their beak. Under water, mergansers feel excellent. They can move quickly there, make sharp turns.
In summer, merganser ducks can hunt alone, and during migration they almost always go out for collective fishing. It's quite a fascinating sight. Birds line up in one line and simultaneously dive for prey. Such collective fishing can include several hundred ducks.
Interesting fact: The availability of food is the main criterion for choosing a habitat. Mergansers will not migrate to more southerly areas for the winter unless the waters where they nest are covered with a thin layer of ice and they can fish.
The basis of the diet of wild mergansers, as already noted, is fish. Ducks prey on eels, trout, pikes, salmon, barbs. These fish become prey for large and adult individuals. Little mergansers eat smaller fish. Also, mergansers do not disdain other aquatic inhabitants. They eat molluscs, small crustaceans, various aquatic insects, and worms.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
Most of the varieties of mergansers lead a migratory lifestyle. In spring and summer they live in nesting areas, which are mainly located in central Europe, and in winter they fly to the southern regions. However, birds fly away for wintering only in the middle or at the end of autumn, when the reservoirs begin to be covered with ice. They also arrive very early. In some areas of their natural habitat, they can be seen already at the end of February. To the south, these birds fly in huge flocks, and return in small groups, the number of individuals in which does not exceed twenty pieces.
Mergansers put forward a number of requirements for the nesting place of ducks. They prefer to build their “houses” in the mountains or in forests, away from people. But sometimes nests of these birds can be found in other landscapes. Also an important requirement is the presence of a nearby lake or river with clean water and an abundance of fish. This is extremely important, because ducks spend almost all of their day on the water surface. There they rest, bask in the sun and hunt for fish, which form the basis of their daily diet.
By nature, these ducks do not differ in a kind and very cheerful disposition. They are quite serious birds, hard to come into contact with other animals and people. However, in many countries, these wild birds are still being tamed by feeding them with bread. Merganser duck – family. She spends a lot of time with her offspring, taking good care of him. In case of danger, the bird can easily repulse the offender who decided to eat little ducklings or covet eggs.
Social structure and reproduction
The merganser duck is a family animal. When they reach sexual maturity, they pair up. Maturity occurs approximately in the second year of the feathered life. Duck couples build their nests in very tall grass, in crevices, in abandoned and dilapidated buildings, in hollows of trees. Sometimes nests of mergansers were found even in the rusted remains of cars. Ducks place their nests no further than one kilometer from the reservoir in order to always be able to quickly get to the water and have a bite to eat.
Mergansers cover their nests with down. In it, ducks lay from six to eighteen eggs. Ducks have to incubate eggs for about forty days. This is done exclusively by females. At this time, males live separately from their family. This period is the moment of their molting. The female rarely leaves the nest. Only to hunt and eat. The rest of the time, she hatches her future chicks.
Interesting fact: In the wild, mergansers can live up to fifteen years. Sedentary species live longer, about seventeen years.
The chicks hatch hairy. They develop very quickly. They spend only a few days in the nest, after which they go with their mother to the water. Already on the fourth or fifth day after birth, little ducklings make their first swim. On the twelfth day, ducklings can already start independent fishing. They look for and catch small fish, fry. Ducklings need more time to learn to fly. It usually takes about sixty-five days before the first flight.
Natural enemies of merganser ducks
The Merganser Duck is not easy prey for natural enemies. It has large dimensions, a sharp beak, sharp teeth. She is able to protect herself and her offspring. However, ducks do not always manage to defeat an opponent.
Among the most dangerous natural enemies of mergansers are:
- foxes and raccoon dogs. These predators ravage bird nests, hunt and eat adults. They track down the nests of mergansers by smell;
- birds of prey. The greatest danger is represented by crows, hawks, large gulls, eagles, owls, magpies. These animals usually attack small mergansers or ducklings;
- otters, mink, martens, wild cats. These predators rarely kill mergansers, because for them a two-kilogram duck often becomes an unbearable prey;
- some reptiles. These animals mainly eat eggs and little ducklings while their mother takes them for a walk to the pond.
Some species of ducks are killed by large fish. Such fish attack mergansers extremely rarely. This type of duck suffers more from people. People still hunt wild mergansers and kill them in large numbers. Almost every hunter dreams of such prey, because merganser ducks are very beautiful. Such hunting has led to a significant reduction in the population of mergansers throughout the natural habitat.
Population and species status
Duck merganser is a rather rare species. Despite the stability of the general population, most species of these birds are endangered. In many countries, the duck is recognized as endangered, listed in the Red Book.
What is the reason for the extinction of the species? Ecologists and other scientists identify several factors that negatively affect the number of mergansers.
- uncontrolled shooting by hunters. Despite the ban and protection of these birds, the shooting of mergansers continues. These leads to a significant reduction in the number of animals;
- water pollution. For a long life, the merganser needs clean water, fish. Reservoirs in most countries are heavily polluted, food for ducks is becoming less and less. The quality of food also suffers, which negatively affects the health of birds;
- deforestation. Many species of mergansers live in forests located close to water bodies. Deforestation deprives birds of the opportunity to nest and breed;
- active human activity. People pollute the air, soil, actively develop wildlife.
All of the above factors lead to a slow but steady reduction in the number of mergansers. Also, a lot of these ducks die during long flights. Sedentary ducks live much longer.
Protection of merganser ducks
The genus of mergansers cannot be called numerous, but its overall population is quite stable. However, some species of such ducks are on the verge of extinction, are listed in the Red Books of many states and require protection. Rare and endangered species include scaly and Brazilian mergansers. Large and long-nosed ducks are out of danger today, maintaining a sufficient population throughout the natural habitat.
The following measures are being taken to protect merganser ducks and restore their high population:
- constant monitoring. Scientists carefully monitor the current state of affairs, monitor the number of ducks, their state of health. They study the factors that may adversely affect the population of these birds;
- creation of protected parks. For such ducks, special parks are created with all the necessary conditions. There, the birds are under reliable round-the-clock protection;
breeding birds in captivity.
Interesting fact: Unfortunately, some species of mergansers have already become extinct. So, the Auckland merganser can now be seen only in the museum. Wild goats, cats and pigs are to blame for his death.
The Merganser Duck is a unique and very beautiful creation of nature. These waterfowl have an unusual, bright color, interesting habits. They are divided into several types, each of which is unique in its own way. Most varieties of mergansers today are endangered, so the task of people is to protect them and help restore the population.