Red-breasted Merganser Lifting Off

The weather outside hasn’t been good for bird photography today but since I am always behind on editing I thought I’d process this Red-breasted Merganser image that I took in Florida a few years ago.

Red-breasted Merganser lifting off Red-breasted Merganser lifting off – Nikon D200, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 250, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 260mm, natural light

Of the Mergansers that I have photographed Red-breasted Mergansers are the ones that I have taken images of most often. In Florida I would see them most frequently during the winter through late spring feeding in shallow lagoons or out in the Gulf of Mexico. The “serrator” in their Latin name comes from their serrated bill which is used to grasp the small fish they feed on the “red-breasted” part of their common name is because there breast does turn reddish when they are in breeding plumage. This merganser was in nonbreeding plumage when I photographed it.

I had been kneeling in the water of a tidal lagoon photographing this bird and several Royal Terns that were giving me great views of their mating displays when I noticed that the merganser seemed about to take off in flight so I trained my lens on the Red-breasted Merganser and caught this lift off shot. They sure take off fast!



  1. Dan Huber February 3, 2012 at 4:51 am

    Lovely shot as always Mia. Some day I hope to bird in Fla, so maybe I can get a bit closer to some of the water fowl

    • Mia McPherson February 3, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      Dan, I hope that you get to take a bird photography trip to Florida, you will love it. Sincere thanks for your comment.

  2. Tammy Karr February 2, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Excellent capture of the take off! Capturing this quick motion is quite difficult and you did it superbly!

    • Mia McPherson February 3, 2012 at 12:54 pm


      Thank you for your comment, I appreciate it a lot.

  3. Ingrid February 1, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    I have very few good shots of bird take-offs, so I appreciate the skill involved. It’s a particularly difficult form of panning, don’t you think? This past week, I was just reading a post at Next Door Nature, a post called “Running Start.” It’s about the water birds who require a runway like this merganser did and who sometimes mistake watery parking lots for water bodies. Just knowing what it entails to take off and land on two feet, makes my heart go out to these birds.

    • Mia McPherson February 2, 2012 at 5:39 am

      Ingrid, thanks so much for your comment on this Red-breasted Merganser image.

      Grebes have to land on water and take off from it too because thier legs are so far back on thier bodies they have a difficult time on land. In December (I think) a huge flock of Eared Grebes mistook a wet Walmart parking lot for a lake here in southern Utah and they crash landed. Over 3000 of them died but local people, police, etc. all volunteered and saved some 5000 of them by rounding them up and relocating them to a lake with open water. They are Heroes in my book!

  4. Laurence B February 1, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    Super shot. There’s action and grace encapsulated in that pointy duck. Getting those take-off shots is another level of difficulty, but you pull it off with aplomb time and again.

    • Mia McPherson February 2, 2012 at 5:40 am

      Thanks so much for your kind comment Laurence. Red-breasted Mergansers do take off fast so you have to be ready!

  5. Linda Rockwell February 1, 2012 at 6:01 pm

    I love the look of this photo. Difficult to capture at just the right moment. Well executed, and a beautiful result.

    • Mia McPherson February 2, 2012 at 5:41 am

      Thanks so much for commenting on this image Linda, it is much appreciated!

  6. Bob Zeller February 1, 2012 at 3:49 pm

    Another super shot, Mia. I love to try to get shots like this of birds leaving the water. You can see the water dripping off of there legs, etc. I have been lucky to get similar shots of herons and egrets.

    • Mia McPherson February 1, 2012 at 3:59 pm

      Bob, thanks for your comment. I love to try to get lift off shots of birds leaving the water or other features, they are a challenge but well worth the effort.

  7. Prairie Birder February 1, 2012 at 11:27 am

    Mergansers are so beautiful.

    • Mia McPherson February 1, 2012 at 11:34 am

      PrairieBirder, I agree, they are so beautiful and interesting to see & photograph.

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