Synchronised swimming, merganser style

I watched a pair of Hooded Mergansers, Lophodytes cucullatus, the other day, grooming as they swam, and I could swear they were matching their moves to their mate. Look at this.

First, the happy couple:

They began with under the wing

Then behind the ear

Now the armpit (do ducks have armpits?):

A slight failure of coordination here (five point deduction):

The male did the occasional show-off solo, watched admiringly by his consort:

And then they each lay on their sides in the water and tended to their bellies:

(This last manoeuvre was simultaneous, but they had drifted a little apart so I couldn’t get them in the same shot.)

And they looked deep into each other’s eyes.

I have tried to discover if this was chance, or whether coordinated grooming is part of their pair bonding ritual, but to no avail.

But I like to think of it as akin to standing in the bathroom with your loved one, blowdrying your hair together, and reaffirming your vows. Though no matter how hard you try, a stiff breeze can play havoc with that hairdo.

5 thoughts on “Synchronised swimming, merganser style”

  1. It’s partly being at the right place at the right time. It’s partly being a gifted photographer. It’s partly sparkling wit. It’s totally delightful. Thanks!


  2. I thought it might be a mating ritual, but The Birder’s Handbook has an article on duck displays – many ducks do it, and the details are poorly understood. HMs can be communal nest sharers/egg layers, up to 36 eggs per clutch from several females!


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