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Hooded Merganser - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by Pete Arnold
Salt Lake City, Utah, USA, 17 January 2004
Lophodytes cucullatus


42–50 cm (16½-19¾ in); a small, long-bodied diving duck where both sexes have a hammerhead-like crest.

Male in breeding plumage is mostly black and white with only flanks orange-brown.
Female and non-breeding male are brownish grey overall.

Photo © by Deanneart
Southern New Hampshire, USA, 5 February 2012

Like other mergansers, this bird has a long narrow bill which is mostly black in breeding male and brown with orange base in female.
Iris: starts as yellowish brown in juvenile becoming yellow in male during second year, but becomes more reddish-brown in the female.


Photo © by Gerald Friesen
Carlsbad, California, USA, 21 November 2016

This duck is a permanent or summer resident in the Northern portions of the United States and Canada. During the winter these ducks migrate across the Southeastern United States. In the Central United States this bird is found as a migrant with birds wintering on the West coast.

Most European sightings are likely to be escapees from wildfowl collections, though some (particularly in Iceland and Britain could be genuine vagrants.


Photo © by Jim Crosswell
Windsor, Ontario, USA, February 2022

This is a monotypic species[1].

A recent paper proposes that this species should be included in the genus Mergus[3]


These ducks are uncommon in small flocks on sheltered ponds and bays, especially wooded ponds and swamps with standing dead trees. During the breeding season females build a nest in a dead snag much like Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) whom they have been known to share nests with.


The tail of this duck is rather long and often held upright when swimming.


These ducks forage by diving in shallow water where they consume small fish, aquatic insects, and crustaceans (especially crayfish).


Females lay a clutch of 5-13 white eggs inside a tree cavity or nest box, this nest is lined with the downy feathers from the hen's chest. The chicks hatch with open eyes and are covered in down. Within one day of hatching the chicks leave the nest never to return.

Female Hooded Mergansers are known to dump their eggs in another Merganser's nest resulting in large clutch sizes (up to 44 eggs); they have even been reported to dump their eggs in the nest of a Wood Duck.


Click on photo for larger image


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Collins Bird Guide ISBN 0 00 219728 6
  3. Birdforum thread discussing the taxonomy of some mergansers
  4. Birds of North America Online

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