Different plumage phases of Red-breasted Merganser Drakes

Male Red-breasted Merganser in breeding plumage

Male Red-breasted Merganser in breeding plumage

Awhile back someone told me (in a comment on this blog) that Mergansers don’t change their plumage seasonally, which is incorrect as all three species of mergansers that live in North America do. The image above shows a Red-breasted Merganser drake in breeding plumage, I took this image at a pond very close to where I live in Salt Lake County, Utah.

Note the very dark head, striking black and white patterns on the back of the merganser and evidence of the red breast this species gets part of its name from. Don’t you just love the shaggy, punk rock do these birds have?

Male Red-breasted Mergansers in eclipse plumageMale Red-breasted Mergansers in eclipse plumage

All three of the birds in the image above are male Red-breasted Mergansers in eclipse plumage and look remarkably different than the male in breeding plumage shown above. Or maybe these mergansers are just females that got a really bad deal on smoky eye shadows at Walgreens.

Seriously they are males in eclipse plumage photographed at Fort De Soto’s north beach in Florida.

It pays to have great Bird Guides, I have plenty on a shelf right above my computer monitor and keep one in the pickup, I also have two bird guide apps on my smart phone so I can use them anywhere I am without the weight of a book. Not only can the guides help with a bird’s identification they can also help us distinguish the various plumage phases of birds or if they change seasonally.

At any rate, I’d say that these images of Red-breasted Merganser drakes show there is a seasonal change in their plumage.

Mia

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