Hooded Mergansers get their name obviously for their spectacular crests. They breed in forested wetlands throughout the eastern half of North America and the Pacific Northwest and winter in these habitats as well as on shallow freshwater and brackish bays, estuaries, and tidal creeks, where they often concentrate along the edge of ice.
They dive in clear, shallow forest ponds, rivers, and streams and locate prey by sight. They propel themselves with their feet and use their slender bills to grasp their prey; eating small fish, aquatic insects, crustaceans (especially crayfish), amphibians, vegetation, and mollusks. Hooded Mergansers find their prey underwater by sight. They can actually change the refractive properties of their eyes to improve their underwater vision.
Mergansers often lay their eggs in other females’ nests. This is called “brood parasitism” and is similar to the practice of Brown-headed Cowbirds, except that the ducks only lay eggs in nests of their own species. Female Hooded Mergansers can lay up to about 13 eggs in a clutch, but nests have been found with up to 44 eggs in them.
Rendered in Poser 2014 without postwork. Model Credits: "Soggy Bottom" swamp (Nerd3D), cat tails and Mergansers (Ken Gilliland/Hivewire3d)