Sawbills and goosanders

A family of Common Mergansers, Mergus merganser, swam past my dock yesterday.


They nest in holes in mature trees near large lakes, and the chicks leap to the ground from the hole. They are in the water and eating fish by about 12 days.

They hunt by sight, so the mother sticks her head in the water looking for fish.


The chicks quickly learn to copy her:


The word “merganser” comes from the Latin  mergo (to dip, immerse) + anser (goose), and indeed in English they are also known as goosanders, because they are a large waterbird that dives. These ones had already started diving, in a very disorganized splashy sort of way!


Their common name of sawbill derives from the fact that their beaks are serrated, with a wicked hook on the end, for catching and holding onto slippery fish.

Red-necked grebes

This chick is clearly hungry!


Off they went, cruising along the shoreline in the sun.

Red-necked grebes

PS Common Mergansers are widespread in Europe and North America. They migrate northwards to breed, but in Maine they are year-round residents.

PPS Thanks to Leigh and Peter for the ID! I stupidly fixated on grebes!

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