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Both males and females of this species have large erectile crests resembling a hood and long tails for great maneuverability in flight.
Males have eclipse plumage, which turns black, brown, and white during breeding season, and the male eye markings are yellow.
Females have brown eyes and are brownish in color.
Approximately 42-50 cm (16.8-20 in.) in length; wingspan 56-70 cm (22.4-28 in.)
Approximately 680 g (23.8 oz)
Approximately 540 g (18.9 oz)
Feeds primarily on fish; diet also includes frogs, tadpoles, crustaceans, and small mollusks
32 days; breeding takes place March through May
Approximately 2 years
Throughout North America, except the far northern latitudes and only into the northern part of Baja California, Mexico
Found in freshwater sloughs, streams, ponds, and swamps
Males are called drakes, females are hens, and young are ducklings.
Mergansers can fly at speeds approaching 50 mph.
Mergansers are also able to catch fish by direct underwater pursuit, remaining submerged for up to 2 minutes! They resurface to swallow their prey, turning it around so it is swallowed headfirst. This method avoids injury from the spiny fins of some types of fish.
Some refer to hooded mergansers as frog ducks because of the long guttural call that can be heard a half mile away.
Ducklings in the water may gather together in a tight compact group resembling a swimming muskrat. This instinctive behavior may deceive aerial predators like sharp-shinned hawks.
Hens frequently select nesting cavities as high as 75 feet above ground.
ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION
Hooded mergansers help maintain fish and amphibian populations.
Though not listed as endangered, the future for this species may not be optimistic. Forest destruction and stream water pollution has reduced their breeding grounds. In some areas, fish farmers and anglers hunt hooded mergansers because they feel the ducks destroy the fish populations in those areas.
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Handbook of North American Birds. Vol. 4
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A Coloured Key of the Wildfowl of the World
. Slimbridge, England. The Wildfowl Trust. 1988.
Natural History of Waterfowl
. San Diego, Ca. Ibis Publishing Co., 1996.