National Geographic : 1915 Aug
HOODED MERGANSER (Lophodytes cucullatus) (See page 109). Range: Breeds from central British Columbia, Great Slave Lake, central Keewatin, central Ungava, and Newfoundland south to southern Oregon, northern New Mexico, southern Louisiana, and central Florida; winters from southern British Columbia, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts south to Lower California, Mexico, and the Gulf States. This, the smallest and most beautiful of the mergansers, ranges from Alaska to Mexico, and formerly was abundant in the East where it nested in many States, including New England. Of late years it has diminished greatly in numbers, as would be expected of a bird of its habits. Unlike its near relatives, it prefers still-water ponds and rivers, and is often found in company with the wood duck. Its flesh is said to have little of the unpalatable fishy flavor of its congeners, and this would seem to imply a more varied diet, including probably seeds and grasses. Nevertheless, nature did not endow the merganser with the serrated bill of its kind without a purpose, and its skill in diving and seizing its finny quarry proves that fish, or at least aquatic creatures of some sort, are its natural food. The hooded merganser nests in hollow trees, sometimes thirty or more feet up, and the wonder is how the tiny ducklings find their way to the nearest water as they certainly do in a very few hours after emerging from the egg. Sometimes the mother may act as a common carrier for her brood, and again, when the height is not too great, the ducklings may drop to the ground or water as the case may be. GADWALL (Chaulelasmus streperus) (See page 111). Range: Breeds from southern British Columbia, central Alberta, and central Keewatin south to southern California, southern Colorado, northern Nebraska, and southern Wisconsin; winters from southern British Columbia, Arizona, Arkansas, southern Illinois, and North Carolina south to southern Lower Cali fornia, central Mexico (Jalisco), and Florida. Though seemingly as well fitted for the struggle for existence as any of its fellows, the gadwall apparently was never very abundant in any part of its range. Formerly it was not uncommon in New England and in the Middle and Eastern States, but for a quarter of a century or more the bird has been practically unknown to the sportsmen of the Atlantic seacoast, though still found in considerable numbers in Texas, and other Western States. I have never seen the gadwall in large flocks, but usually singly or by twos or threes in company with ducks of other species, and such seems to have been the experience of many other observers. It is a denizen of fresh water and is fond of shallow lakes and ponds, where its habits somewhat resemble those of the mallard. It is a good diver when the need arises, but usually finds little occasion for the exercise of its skill, since it frequents the shallow margins of ponds and lakes in company with mallards and other species. I have frequently seen the gadwall literally stand on its head in shallow water grubbing for food on the muddy bottom, when only its feet and the tip of its tail were sticking out. Its bill of fare is varied and includes aquatic grasses, seeds, nuts, insects, mollusks, in short almost any edible substance it can obtain. SHOVELLER (Spatula clypeata) (See page 111). Range: Breeds from northwestern Alaska, northwestern Mackenzie, and southern Keewatin south to southern California, central New Mexico, northern Texas, northern Missouri, and northern Indiana; winters from southern British Columbia, Arizona, New Mexico, southern Missouri, southern Illinois, Maryland, and Delaware south to the West Indies and Colombia. The shoveler is cosmopolitan inits range and, while no longer common inthe Eastern States, it is still numerous inseveral States ofthe far West where it breeds. The shoveler likes reedy ponds and sloughs, where itgrubs intheshallows, and obtains a rich feast of insects, tadpoles, worms, and larvae of various kinds, which its shovel-shaped bill seems expressly designed to enable ittoscoop up and strain out of the reedy ooze. By many itisaccounted one of our best table ducks. And as it is not shy and isoften killed inlarge numbers, ithas suffered a notable decrease in numbers. The shoveler isaswift flier and iscapable of enduring flight, as is apparentfrom the fact that annually itfinds its way from Alaska over the 2,000 miles ofintervening ocean to the Hawaiian Islands. There it winters, and the few that escape the ardent pursuit ofthe island sportsmen retrace their way across the tractless ocean inspring for the purpose of nesting. CINNAMON TEAL (Querquedula cyanoptera) (See page 111). Range: Breeds from southern British Columbia, southwestern Alberta, south eastern Wyoming, and western Kansas south to northern Lower California, northern Chihuahua, southernNew Mexico, and southwestern Texas; winters from southern California, central New Mexico, and southern Texas south to southern Lower California andcentral Mexico. Though a stray individualthe cinnamon teal isoccasionally seen east ofthe Mississippi, and though the bird isknown tobreed asfar east as western Kansas, the true home and center ofabundance ofthis species iswest ofthe Rocky Mountains. Its favorite resorts insummer are the extensive marshes that sur round shallow fresh or alkalilakes. Well within the recesses ofthese, itselects a dry spot and on it builds its nest. When the young are hatched they are led by the anxious mother to theshelter ofthe tall tulles that surround these inland lakes by a broad strip of darkgreen, and here they are safe, atleast from most four-footed enemies. Thoughthe cinnamon teal summers to some extent in British Columbia, and a greater orlesser number winter south of our borders. as a species the teal may be said topass its life within our boundaries. At present it does not receive adequate protection at any season ofthe year, and inmany places large numbers are killed before they can fly. Ifthoroughly protected during the summer and if reasonably protected at other seasons, the teal will hold its own indefinitely, oruntil, inthe interests of agriculture, all its marshy fastnesses have been turned into ploughed fields which, fortunately for waterfowl and bird lovers, will not be for many years to come.