From edge of Tai Lam Chung Reservoir in northwest New Territories, Hong Kong on 24 January 2023; trip to see what in birding world is a MEGA – a Scaly-sided Merganser, found by John Chow, who confirmed identity after quick flight views a few days previously.
This duck breeds in ne China, N Korea and east Russia; mainly winters across much of China but overall population perhaps in range 3600-6800 (Scaly-sided Merganser in Birdlife Datazone), and endangered as numbers evidently decreasing. Has been recorded as far as Thailand, Burma, so some can wander a bit.
Lucky today, arriving after it had been resting much of early morning, then started feeding in channel with strong water flow surely of mostly water supplied from s China. Spotted by my son, David.
Here with its egret “friend”, which in videos and a little as we saw today seems to follow the merganser, looking for creatures it startles.
Unusual to me for a diving duck: the merganser just put head down into shallow water, searching for prey [fish, shrimps etc]; not really diving. And favouring the short stretch of water with fast flow; not the reservoir – I’ve seen v similar species, red-breasted merganser and goosander, readily feeding in deeper, still water. Online, I indeed find this species favours fast-flowing shallow rivers, usually in forest.
Sadly, this bird has an injured beak [lower mandible], with tongue dangling down. A friend, Paul Crow, suggests maybe after an incident with a fish hook. Paul works at Kadoorie Farm, and later messaged: “Seems our vet has been consulted about the bird already yesterday . Possibly/probably old and tongue colour is good so he thinks should be ok …..”
Otherwise seems healthy. I had wondered in a local birding group if worth considering catching it, to then try healing injury; but would be very difficult to catch, and maybe it can survive, hopefully even return to breeding grounds to nest…