Reader’s wildlife video

We have another video from Tara Tanaka in Florida showing a variety of waterfowl, but especially ducks. This one features the hooded merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus), and note how the male displays even when his mate is laying eggs in the nest box. Tara’s notes:

I looked through the scope this morning and was thrilled to see a Hooded Merganser pair swimming toward one of our duck boxes. She looked like she had a bead on that box, so I started filming through the living room window. She landed on top, surveyed the situation, and then entered the box. While she was likely laying an egg, the male waited outside performing what I’ve always interpreted to be a courtship display. After about seven minutes she rejoined her mate in the water. An Anhinga in the background surfaced with a bream, and after briefly beating it on a log, swallowed it whole. Although a Wood Duck hen landed on top to the box after the Merganser exited – looking like she was definitely going to go in, she and her mate left without disturbing the new egg. Just a few minutes later the Merganser entered a SECOND box, likely laying another egg! I only got video of her leaving the box, greeted by a group of curious Canada Geese. I’m going to have to keep a close eye on these two boxes to see if we have any mixed Wood Duck and Merganser broods.


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    I’m conflicted- it’s beautiful – especially the mirror reflections – and a soothing mood – except for the bludgeoning – but that’s nature for you…. brutally honest?

    • Posted February 3, 2019 at 8:33 am | Permalink

      All opinions are appreciated. I think that the more something is like us, the more we relate to it, and if we have a very close view of the creature’s face, it also increases our empathy — it’s the main reason I like to capture wildlife really close – to give the viewer a more relatable experience. Since the fish is less relatable than perhaps the ducks, and not very visible, my guess is that most people wouldn’t relate to it or feel compassion for it, but I definitely appreciate your sensitivity and empathy.

      • Christopher
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:17 am | Permalink

        I’m a bit of a softy, so much so that I have trouble feeding earthworms to my turtles. I didn’t find the anhinga feeding to be too distressing (I find it easier to accept if I’m not playing any part in it) but seeing and hearing a garter snake eat a toad…horrifying.

        But beyond that, what a beautiful scene. I have always found wetlands to be mesmerizing. As a small child they always seemed the most wild and wonderful. I envy you!

        • Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:42 am | Permalink

          As a child wetlands were my FAVORITE places, and that I get to live here and look out on this beauty every day still seems like a dream. I’m just so glad that I get to share it with so many, and really appreciate that Jerry shares my videos with his large following.

        • Jenny Haniver
          Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:44 am | Permalink

          I concur with everything you say.

      • Posted February 4, 2019 at 2:32 am | Permalink

        Beautiful footage! I think that fish was a black crappie _Pomoxis nigromaculatus_.

        • Posted February 4, 2019 at 7:28 am | Permalink

          I learn so much by posting my non-scientific interpretation of what I’m seeing, and having educated people gently provide the facts :-). I had no idea we had crappie here. If it weren’t for predators, we wouldn’t know that we have sirens, amphiumas, newts, or even very large common snapping turtles, which we learned when one of our large alligators left a headless specimen near the shore.

    • rickflick
      Posted February 4, 2019 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

      Actually the beating the fish got was nothing compared to the way a green heron tenderizes a bull frog. 😎

  2. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Terrific footage! Amazingly sharp and well captured. Loved the croaking frogs in the background.

    • Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      Thanks very much Mark! I had to dub in audio that I recorded last near int he same spot since I shot it from inside the house.

  3. Bruce Lyon
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Fantastic footage and if the nest ends up being used by the wood duck you would have filmed interspecific brood parasitism, which is not very often filmed. Tara, you thought that it was likely that the merganser laid a second egg but from what we know about bird physiology, this is not possible — no bird on earth can lay more than one egg per day. It takes 24 hours to form each egg — adding albumin to the yolk and then the shell — and there is only one egg in the chute at a time. I used this simple one-egg-per day to figure out when two or more female coots laid eggs in the same nest. Any more than one egg per 24 hours means that two females have laid in the same nest.

    From our own study of wood ducks, where we have females pit tagged and boxes rigged with pit tag readers, we know that individual wood duck hens will often visit several boxes in the same day, something called prospecting.

    • Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Thank you very much Bruce for that explanation – I did not know that. I guess it’s clear that my background is not in biology.

      I think Jerry may have posted this last year, but this is a video I edited in 2018 of events that took place in 2016 when a Hooded Merganser, Wood Duck and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks laid eggs in yet another box in our swamp:

      • Bruce Lyon
        Posted February 3, 2019 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        Yes I remember this great video as well. You take video that is not only biologically interesting, but visually beautiful too.

        • Posted February 3, 2019 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

          Thanks Bruce. When I finish entertaining people in this life, all of my videos and photos are going to Cornell.

  4. Joe Dickinson
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Given that the wood duck and merganser are not even in the same genus, hybrid offspring would be surprising. Or are the ducks trying to tell us that the taxonomists have it wrong?

    • Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

      Hi Joe – I don’t think they are interbreeding, but both species are laying eggs in the same boxes.

  5. Barbara Radcliffe
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    How I envy you your view of the wetland. If it were mine, I would never get anything done! Regarding hybridisation, I have just found a photo that I took last year of and Australian wood duck with wind flashes like a mallard! Also not of the same genus. I’ve seen it only once, and wonder about intergeneric hanky-panky!

  6. Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Love the detailed comments, as I often focus on one creature to the exclusion of the one in the background. (I couldn’t tell that it was a fish the Anhinga was beating or playing with.)

    • Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

      I often learn a lot more from comments than from original posts in forums too.

  7. Claudia Baker
    Posted February 3, 2019 at 3:46 pm | Permalink


  8. Posted February 3, 2019 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for a spectacular video, Tara! I love the natural cacophony on the video. You have a gorgeous piece of Eden right there.

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