I’ve spent the past few days thinking about this pair of Mergansers that visit a nearby pond each year. A quick internet search will return more photographs of the male and its signature white on black full crest.
Drawing these crests can be deceptive. Male or female I was tempted to draw one big circular form. That ignores what we know about feather groups on the face. When the Merganser has it’s crest down the feather groups are much clearer. The white is essentially the eyeliner. The crown, auricular (feathers covering the ear) and eyebrow are all black.
An easier way to think of the Merganser’s dramatic mohawk-like head is to compare it with Cardinals or Blue Jays. The feathers of the crown are just longer than other birds of the same family. A little knowledge about feather groups goes a long way. We don’t have to draw every feather but knowing direction and volume shifts help.
So why did I choose to draw the female instead? While sometimes subtle, there are more shifts in color with clearer beginning and endpoints of feather groups. The beautiful rusty red is also nice to look at.