Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

Scientific Classification

Common Name
hooded merganser
Genus Species
Mergus (diving bird) cucullatus (a hood)

Fast Facts

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.)
Male: Approximately 680 g (23.8 oz)
Female: 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
Clutch Size
9–11 eggs
Fledging Duration
71 days
Sexual Maturity
Approximately 2 years
Life Span
No data
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
Global: Unknown
IUCN: Not listed
CITES: Not listed
USFWS: Not listed

Fun Facts

  1. Males are called drakes, females are hens, and young are ducklings.
  2. Mergansers can fly at speeds approaching 80 kph (50 mph).
  3. 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.
  4. Some refer to hooded mergansers as frog ducks because of the long guttural call that can be heard a half mile away.
  5. 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.
  6. Hens frequently select nesting cavities as high as 23 m (75 ft) 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.


Austin, G. Birds of the World. New York. Golden Press, Inc., 1961.

Gotch, A.F. Birds - Their Latin Names Explained. UK. Blandford Books Ltd., 1981.

Johnsgard, P. Ducks, Geese, and Swans of the World. Lincoln. Univ. Of Neb. Press, 1978.

Palmer, R.S. (ed.). Handbook of North American Birds. Vol. 4. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988.

Scott, P. A Coloured Key of the Wildfowl of the World. Slimbridge, England. The Wildfowl Trust. 1988.

Todd, F.S. Natural History of Waterfowl. San Diego, Ca. Ibis Publishing Co., 1996.