Return to Easily Identify Diving Ducks   

Red-breasted Merganser

Mergus serrator

Diving Ducks Family

Waterfowl Identification

Male Red-breasted Merganser
Female Red-breasted Merganser
Similar Waterfowl:
The male red-breasted merganser has a dark green head with a double pointed crest, white neck collar and a reddish-brown spotted breast. The female has a cinnamon-brown head with a smaller double crest and a white throat patch. Both have reddish-orange feet and a long red bill.
Typical Size:
The male and female average 22 inches in length and weigh 2 3/4 pounds. They have a wingspan of 32 inches.
The preferred habitat of the red-breasted merganser is freshwater lakes and open areas on rivers across northern North America.
Its breeding habitat is in northern North America. It nests in sheltered locations on the ground near water and will lay six to twelve eggs.
They mainly eat small fish, but also aquatic insects, crustaceans and frogs.
The red-breasted merganser stays mainly in southern Canada and the northern US along the Atlantic coast.
Flyway Patterns:
The red-breasted merganser can be most commonly found in the northern parts of the Atlantic flyway but are found throughout all flyways.
Flight Formation:
Single file formation or irregular small flocks close to water. Strong direct flight with speeds at 100 MPH.
Both males and females have an occasional hoarse CROAK.

Red-Breasted Merganser Flight and Plumage Characteristics

This guide will help you recognize red-breasted mergansers on the wing - it emphasizes their fall and winter plumage patterns as well as size, shape, and flight characteristics. Their flight characteristics are very similar to to the common merganser and therefore very difficult to distinguish from them in flight. These ducks usually winter in coastal waters, including the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes. The voices of both drakes and hens are usually silent.