Drake Common Merganser In Flight In Northern Utah

/, Common Mergansers, Salt Lake County, Utah/Drake Common Merganser In Flight In Northern Utah

Drake Common Merganser in flight in evening lightDrake Common Merganser in flight in evening light – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I don’t see Common Mergansers here in northern Utah much during their breeding season but I do see them quite often from late fall, through the winter and into late spring. I see them during the summer and early fall when I visit Montana in alpine lakes.

Last evening I saw a few Common Mergansers at the local pond including drakes in breeding plumage, one of the drakes caught a large fish and swallowed it but I wasn’t able to obtain high quality images of that action because the bird was so far away. There were also some drake mergansers that flew in over the pond but didn’t actually land, they zoomed in and out very quickly.

One of the drake Common Mergansers I saw yesterday flew over the pond and past me close enough for me to take two photos of it up close in the late evening light. I wish that the light had been strong enough to pick up the green iridescence of his head more than it shows in my photo but I was happy to get this image of him flying by because I have found these birds are very challenging to track & photograph in flight. The clouds behind the bird were starting to glow pink from the setting sun when I photographed it.

I’m always happy to see these saw-billed ducks and even more delighted when I can take photos of them in flight.

Life is good.


A few Common Merganser Facts:

  • Common Mergansers are long-bodied diving ducks with long, thin reddish serrated bills, orange feet and legs and dark eyes. The males have greenish, black heads, white bodies and black backs in breeding plumage. Females have gray bodies with cinnamon colored heads with shaggy crests
  • Common Mergansers are migratory.
  • Common Mergansers are found throughout most of North America, during the breeding season they can be found in northern forested habitats that include lakes, ponds and rivers. During the winter they will be found further south on lakes, reservoirs and rivers.
  • The diet of Common Mergansers includes fish, insects and aquatic plants.
  • Common Mergansers lay 6 to 17 eggs which hatch in 28 to 35 days. The female incubates and they are monogamous.
  • Common Merganser nicknames include “Fish Ducks”, “goosanders” and “Saw bill”.
  • Common Mergansers can live at least 13 years


  1. April Olson January 6, 2018 at 12:13 pm

    I love the female’s head feathers!

  2. Elephants Child January 6, 2018 at 11:04 am

    I could/would very happily set up camp at your local pond.

  3. Patty Chadwick one of my favorite birds January 6, 2018 at 8:32 am

    I enjoy your facts, too. This is. Very beautiful photo of an elegants bird…love it!

  4. LSClemens January 6, 2018 at 7:54 am

    PS – meant to include that I appreciate your “Facts” section….I always learn something new.

  5. LSClemens January 6, 2018 at 7:52 am

    Your local Pond sounds great! We just had a couple of Common Mergansers this week in the main Harbor in Greenwich, CT, a sheltered Harbor off Long Island Sound, approx 25 miles east of NYC. We get a few almost every year. Red Breasted & Hooded are seen in greater numbers.

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