One of my favorite birds to see in winter in southeast Michigan, the Common Merganser swims low on the water as it dives to hunt for fish in winter.
The male Common Mergansers long white body with black back, deep green iridescent head, and bright orange-red slender bill stand out in the open water when compared with other ducks that sit higher in the water.
Females have muted colors: a gray body with cinnamon head.
I have to check for the distinct line between the colors (characteristic of Common Mergansers) when I find a female merganser to make sure I’m not looking at a female Hooded Merganser.
In southeast Michigan, I usually see Common Mergansers in open water on the Detroit River at Belle Isle State Park and along the Lake Erie shoreline.
Until this year, I had no idea Common Merganser could stay underwater for up to two minutes.
Usually I see them dive and return above water in less than a minute.
They breed further north in Canada, as well as Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Wisconsin, and Alaska.
In southeast Michigan, we only see Common Mergansers for a short time.
Common Mergansers are one of the last waterbirds to migrate south in fall and one of the first to return to their breeding grounds in the north in spring.