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Common Merganser

Mergus merganser

Diving Ducks Family

Waterfowl Identification

 
Male Common Merganser
male
Female Common Merganser
female
Similar Waterfowl:
None
Description:
The long, narrow bill with sharp edges readily distinguishes mergansers from all other ducks. Common mergansers are among the largest ducks, but are less stocky than eiders and goldeneyes. In flight, they appear more elongated than other ducks, flying in trailing lines close to the water surface. Male common mergansers have a greenish-black crested head and upper neck. The lower neck, breast, and under parts are creamy-white with a variable pink wash. They have black backs and upperwing coverts with white scapulars. The bill is red with a blackish culmen and nail. The legs and feet are deep red. Female common mergansers have a tufted red-brown head that is clearly defined from the lower neck by a clear whitish chin. The back and sides are silver-gray and the breast and belly are white. The bill is red with a blackish culmen and nail. The legs and feet are deep red.
Typical Size:
The male and female average 25 inches in length and weigh 3 pounds. They have a wingspan of 36 inches.
Habitat:
The common merganser prefer the clear water rivers and streams as well as forested areas near these bodies of water.
Breeding:
Common mergansers breed from Alaska, the southern Yukon, Labrador, and Newfoundland south to central California, Arizona, New Mexico, southern Chihuahua, and, east of the Rockies, to Minnesota, Michigan, New York, New England, and Nova Scotia. Common mergansers nest in tree cavities, nest boxes, cliff crevices, and on the ground generally near clear water rivers in forested regions and mountainous terrain. Female common mergansers lay an average of 9 to 12 eggs.
Diet:
Common mergansers eat mainly fish, amphibians, crustaceans, mollusks, and other invertebrates obtained by diving underwater in marine and freshwater habitats.
Migration:
In winter, the American race of common merganser ranges along the Atlantic coast from Newfoundland almost to Florida, in the interior from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico and on the Pacific coast from the Aleutian Islands to Mexico.
Flyway Patterns:
The common merganser are found throughout all flyway corridors.
Flight Formation:
Single file formation or irregular small flocks close to water. Strong direct flight with speeds at 100 MPH.
Voice:
Both males and females have an occasional hoarse CROAK.

Common Merganser Flight and Plumage Characteristics

This guide will help you recognize common mergansers on the wing - it emphasizes their fall and winter plumage patterns as well as size, shape, and flight characteristics. Common mergansers are found throughout all flyway corridors and single file formation or irregular small flocks close to water with speeds up to 100 mph are typical. One of the last to migrate south, they are one of the largest of our ducks and more common than the red-breasted merganser on inland waters. Both males and females have an occasional hoarse CROAK.

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