Brazilian Merganser (Mergus octosetaceus)
Brazilian Merganser, Canastra, Minas Gerais, Brazil, April 2001 - click for a larger image Serra da Canastra, Minas Gerais, Brazil
April 2001

The Brazilian Merganser is one of the rarest birds in South America and is classified as Critical by Birdlife International in "Threatened Birds of the World". There may be less than 200 birds left.

Brazilian Merganser, Canastra, Minas Gerais, Brazil, April 2001 - click for a larger image One of the reasons for this scarcity are the strict habitat requirements and the fact that suitable habitat is disappearing fast. The Brazilian Merganser requires shallow, fast-flowing rivers with rapids and clear waters in which it catches fish by diving. These have to flow through areas of forest, often surrounded by cerrado, where the birds can build nests in tree cavities.
Brazilian Merganser, Canastra, Minas Gerais, Brazil, April 2001 - click for a larger image The Brazilian Merganser is one of the duller members of its genus (compare, for example, the Red-breasted Merganser, Mergus serrator). It has a shiny dark green hood with a long crest, dark grey upperparts, a white wing speculum, a pale grey breast and bright orange-red legs. In flight the white on the wings is very noticeable.
Brazilian Merganser, Canastra, Minas Gerais, Brazil, April 2001 - click for a larger image These three birds are presumably a pair with a juvenile whose territory was on the Rio São Francisco just downstream from the Casca d'Anta waterfall. Each pair seems to require several kilometres of river as territory so one wonders how the offspring manage to find new territories given the scarcity of habitat.
There are illustrations in HBW, Volume 1, Pages 572 and 624 and Sick Plate 5.
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