This special photo was taken by Liu Mingyu on the Yalu River, Liaoning Province in China during a birding trip with good friend, Bai Qingquan from Dandong. And what a photo it is… it features three species of merganser – Red-breasted, Common (Goosander) and Scaly-sided. There cannot be many places in the world where this image is possible!
The Scaly-sided Merganser (Mergus squamatus) is an East Asia speciality. It is classified as “Endangered” by BirdLife International as it has a restricted range and is thought to be declining fast. The Yalu River, running along the border between North Korea and China, is a reliable place for this species in spring and autumn as these birds make their way to and from their breeding grounds in far northeast China and eastern Russia (and possibly DPRK).
There are ongoing efforts to help this species with the formation of the Scaly-sided Merganser task force and Birds Korea has been working hard to survey the small population of Scaly-sided Mergansers in South Korea in winter. You can see more images of Scaly-sided Merganser, including some stunning males, here. Let’s hope this species recovers so that we can see more images like this!