Return to Easily Identify Diving Ducks   

Hooded Merganser

Lophodytes cucullatus

Diving Ducks Family

Waterfowl Identification

 
Male Hooded Merganser
male
Female Hooded Merganser
female
Similar Waterfowl:
None
Description:
The smallest of the three mergansers occurring in North America, the hooded merganser is also the only one restricted to North America. Male hooded mergansers have a large white crest surrounded by black. The top of the head, neck, and back are all black and the chest, breast, and belly are white. Wavy black lines can be seen on the tawny sides and flanks. The hindback, rump, and tail are dark brown. The long narrow bill is black. The iris is bright yellow and the legs and feet are dull yellow. Female hooded mergansers have a gray-brown head and neck with a reddish-brown crest. Gray pervades their neck, chest, sides, and flanks, and brownish-black their back, rump, and tail. The upper bill is black edged with orange and the lower bill is yellow. The legs and feet are greenish in color and the iris is brown.
Typical Size:
The male and female average 18 inches in length and weigh 1 1/2 pounds. They have a wingspan of 25 inches.
Habitat:
Forested wetlands, brackish estuaries and tidal creeks are preferred habitats.
Breeding:
Hooded mergansers breed from southeastern Alaska, central British Columbia, and southwestern Alberta to southwestern Oregon, central Idaho, and northwestern Montana; and from central Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia south to Kansas, northern Louisiana, and northern Georgia. Hooded mergansers prefer forested wetland systems where they nest in tree cavities or nest boxes and lay an average of 9 to 11 eggs.
Diet:
Hooded mergansers dive in freshwater to feed on small fishes, crayfishes, and other crustaceans, and aquatic insects.
Migration:
Hooded mergansers winter along the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf coasts, mainly from southeastern Alaska to northern Baja California, and New England to Florida and west to northern Mexico.
Flyway Patterns:
The majority of wintering hooded mergansers occur in the Mississippi flyway although they can also be found along the Pacific coast.
Flight Formation:
Pairs of small flocks in swift and direct flight. Wing beats are short and rapid with speeds topping 100 MPH.
Voice:
The male and female have an occasional grunting CREW-CREW.

Hooded Merganser Flight and Plumage Characteristics

This guide will help you recognize hooded mergansers on the wing - it emphasizes their fall and winter plumage patterns as well as size, shape, and flight characteristics. The majority of wintering hooded mergansers occur in the Mississippi flyway although they can also be found along the Pacific coast. They are smallest of the three mergansers occurring in North Americft and are often seen in pairs, or very small flocks and their short rapid wingstrokes create an impression of great speed. The voices of both drakes and hens are usually silent.

hoodedm1.gif

hoodedm2.gif

hoodedm3.gif