I went looking for Bald Eagles and migrating ducks at Fort Snelling State Park the other day, but scored a zero (or almost zero) on both counts. My duck total amounted to one lonely female Common Merganser sitting by herself on the shore ice of the Mississippi River.
You would know it was a merganser from that sharply pointed beak so useful for grabbing tiny fish and that flaming crest of feathers which both males and females exhibit.
A few wing stretches and some preening, and she was ready to take off down the river.
And now in this view, I’m certain it is a female Common Merganser from the little white chin patch and yellowish eye color. The other species we commonly see in the spring (Hooded Merganser) is much smaller and has a grayish facial color.
Last year about this time, the scene along the Minnesota River was entirely different — much more snow and many more ducks.
Female Common Mergansers were escorted by circles of males surrounding them as they swam down the river last March.
The male Common Merganser is a real stand-out, with his bright red bill, matching bright red feet, and black and white plumage.