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Diving ducks

Posted on Feb 18, 2014

This past weekend I visited the extremely active Dunkirk Harbor in Dunkirk, New York. It is currently holding thousands of ducks and gulls because just about all of Lake Erie is frozen and this immediate area is kept open by the warm water from the outflow of the adjacent NRG Energy power plant. This particularly frigid year means even more birds than usual are concentrated in this pocket of heat allowing for some great birding and close-up views, especially while birds are feeding and active.

I took a few of photos of diving ducks – can you identify any?

Diving duck 1

Diving duck 2

Diving duck 3

The first two photos are of the same species while the third is a second species. Does that help? Check out the part that you can see out of the water on the bird in the first photo and barely in the second because it gives away the identification.

Long-tailed Duck Dunkirk Harbor

Yes, that is a Long-tailed Duck with the tail still showing.

The third photo is more difficult but if you can see enough of it underwater – from the feet to body to back of the head – you may determine that it is a Red-breasted Merganser.

Red-breasted Merganser Dunkirk Harbor

I missed getting a shot of the White-winged Scoter diving but here’s one of a male after coming back up with a meal that was immediately gulped. A mussel?

White-winged Scoter meal Dunkirk Harbor

This bird is often a diver of another sort as it often attempts to grab fish but for the moment the dozens of Bald Eagles congregated in the Dunkirk Harbor area are more concerned with eating waterfowl.

Bald Eagle Dunkirk Harbor

That adult flew through the snow and flushed many of the gulls, a common occurrence. It’s an uneasy and chaotic place at the moment, almost disturbing in ways with a number of waterfowl bodies strewn out all over the ice, but Dunkirk Harbor’s winter bird life is a spectacle to behold.


Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation & Outreach Coordinator

Photos © Scott Kruitbosch