Xaayda Kil: Tl’lhlk’yah
English: Common Merganser (female)
Latin: Mergus merganser
In Haida Gwaii tl’lhlk’yah are common breeding residents. Males and females look entirely different in breeding plumage, but during their non-breeding ‘eclipse’ from July to October, both sexes are largely grey with a red-brown head, white chest and chin. Xaayda Kil distinguishes male mergansers with their own name; K’aaxuu GaadaGa.
The fishers depend on mature forests, which provide the deep tree cavities they prefer to nest in. Clutches normally include between 8 or 12 eggs. When the ducklings hatch, their mother immediately carries them in her bill to nearby rivers or lakes. There the children feed themselves by diving for freshwater invertebrates and small fish fry.
While their large broods of fuzzy ducklings soften their image, the carnivorous birds can actually behave quite voraciously. Tl’lhlk’yah dive in rivers, lakes, and coastal waters where they capture prey with serrated bills. While they prefer fish, they will not be picky if there are molluscs, crustaceans, worms, insects, amphibians, small mammals, and even other birds along the way. In rivers like Tll.aal Gandlaay, they float down stream, diving as they go, then they fly or dive back up-river. The divers often hunt in groups, herding their prey into shallower waters in a semi-circle.
If you’d like to build a home for tl’lhlk’yah and her ducklings, build a nest-box with a 10”x10” floor, 2’ walls, and 10”x1’ ceiling. Place a square 5”x5” entrance 30” high on the front-facing wall. Finally, mount the nest-box over 10’ high on a tree trunk within 100 feet of water. Tl’lhlk’yah would also appreciate a scattering of wood chips on the floor so her family can enjoy a fully furnished apartment.