Date: Wed, 14 Jun 2006 14:25:38 EDT
Sender: Georgia Birders Online <GABO-L@LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
From: Dan Roper <RopersFive@AOL.COM>
Subject: Arrowhead ""grebes" almost certainly juv. hooded mergansers
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Ladies and Gents,
I returned to Arrowhead this morning and found the eight waterfowl on pond #
4. I spent an hour or more with them. They were in plain view, diving
repeatedly and eating crawfish (I saw them eat at least ten).
When I arrived, I was prepared to surmise that they were juvenile hooded
mergansers. The longer I looked at them and compared them to the illustrations
in my Sibley Guide, the more I felt like there were reasons that they more
resembled red-necked grebes. I then went to Kim Kilgore's office and spoke
with her at length - she is pretty confident they are juvenile mergansers based
upon good looks she got with her scope this morning and based upon some
photos she found on the internet.
I took her scope and observed them for awhile longer and was still not sure.
As I returned to work, I ticked off reasons they didn't rightfully seem to
be one or the other:
Not hooded mergansers - no crests (although one might have the hint of one
developing); over two days, three visits, and about three hours of observing
them, I haven't seen them raise their tails a single time; the cream color on
their chest came to the neck resembling much more the Sibley illustration for
the grebe as opposed to the merganser; the bill seemed stouter than hooded
merganser; and these birds spend much more of their time with their necks
extended vertically than do the mergansers I have seen and as illustrated in the
Not red-necked grebes: obvious problems with range and the fact that this
would be winter plumage; white streaks on back of several of the birds
consistent with pictures of juvenile hooded mergansers and not the grebe; I haven't
been able to get these to flush, but as best I could tell today these did NOT
have white on the leading edges of the wings; these birds appear to have
tails - although they never raised them while on the water, I saw them fan the
tail feathers out against the water (like spreading out a handful of cards
flat against the surface) several times.
When I got back to my office there were two emails from GABO members with
links to different photos of juvenile hooded mergansers. The ones sent by
Steve Holzman and Dr. Barlow very closely resemble the birds I'm seeing
(especially the bill, which sure seems stouter to me than the bill on adult hooded
mergansers, but then the heads on human babies are larger in proportion to the
body than for adults). Here are the links they sent:
I have never seen juvenile hooded mergansers before (except the little
chicks I reported at Arrowhead in late April and early May). Since my Sibley's
guide doesn't have a juvenile depiction, the fact that these birds didn't have
crests, didn't raise their tails while on the water, and have stouter bills,
really through me for a loop.
Thanks to all the helpful hints and the total lack of scorn or derision
(although I'm sure there was a reasonable amount of skepticism out there and
rightfully so). I would hang my head in shame and vow to eat crow, but I don't
believe that's necessary among the community of Georgia birders.
Armuchee (Floyd County), GA
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