Hooded merganser

Lophodytes cucullatus

Drake wood ducks aren’t the only waterfowl in Kansas with an Elvisy-looking do, with feathers that sweep back behind their heads.

Hooded mergansers are common migrants that often spend the fall and winter in south-central Kansas. Now is about the time some of the first hoodeds begin to arrive.

Unlike wood ducks, and many other species of waterfowl, hooded mergansers are pretty hardy birds that fare well in some tough winter conditions. Like wood ducks, drake-hooded mergansers are some of the most beautiful birds when they are in an area.

They often spend winters on rivers, particularly just below dams when other parts of the rivers are frozen. They’ll be some of the last ducks in those tiny spots of open, windswept water when most of a major reservoir is locked in ice.

The thin, serrated bill of mergansers is used to feed primarily on fish. Even in the coldest of conditions they spend much of their time diving below the water’s surface, looking for food.