Hoodie eats


The Hooded Merganser has been featured of late. First came a posting about hoodie courting, then the bird played a bit part in birds eat. The latter posting showed that, lacking teeth and any way to tear apart prey, most birds swallow their food whole. That posting merely showed a hoodie with a fish in its bill, as if that was all there was to it. Yet, as the following sequence shows, feeding is not quite that simple for a Hooded Merganser.

First, the hoodie must catch a fish. Fish don’t like being caught, so success is infrequent. This hoodie is diving after a fish, but usually upon resurfacing, nothing has been caught.

Following the struggle to capture a fish comes the struggle to retain it as other hoodies try to steal the meal. The chase is on and both birds start planing, propelling themselves with great speed across the water powered by pushing feet and rowing wings. The fish can be seen athwart the bill of the bird being targeted.

The chase continues across the water with the pursuer sometimes planing along the surface and sometimes swimming underwater, both being faster means of water travel than swimming in displacement mode on the surface.

Eventually, the pursuer tired and broke off the chase. Our hoodie’s problems are not over: The fish (a largescale sucker) is still athwart the bill, and so cannot be swallowed from this position.

Various techniques are used to try to align the fish with the bill. Often the (now dead) fish is dropped in the water and the bird swims around to its head and tries to pick it up again. Here, the bird is trying to turn the fish around by pulling on a fin. 

Once aligned, the fish is grabbed head first in the bill, but further help is needed before it can be moved down the gullet.

To swallow the fish, the hoodie must tip its head back to get the assistance of gravity.

I don’t know how long this meal will last before the hoodie must go fishing again.

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4 Responses to Hoodie eats

  1. Karen Pidcock says:

    Thanks, Alistair, for your amazing action views of a tough way the hoodie must catch its prey!

  2. Shirley says:

    Thank you for the informative lesson on the Hoodie having lunch. I had no idea that they would eat a fish of that size…I thought that they were diving for small fish like what we used to call minnows. Beautiful shots Alistair.

  3. Actually the story still isn’t quite over, I think. Since this Hoody has no teeth and obviously doesn’t chew as we do, presumably it’s taken the precaution of ingesting small pebbles with which to help grind up such a hearty meal. All in all quite remarkable. Thanks for the wonderful action sequence.

  4. Excellent sequence of photos. Congratulations on capturing the entire process — except the underwater portion.

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