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Hooded Merganser

Lophodytes cucullatus

Hooded Merganser


With a length of 15 to 20 inches, the hooded merganser is the smallest North American merganser.

In addition to its small size, it is distinguished from the other mergansers by its brownish-black back and wings, black head with white, fan-shaped crest bordered in black, and white underside.

Distribution and Habitat

Hooded mergansers breed throughout the Pacific Northwest of the United States, across southern Canada, and east of the Mississippi River, with the largest concentrations found in the forested regions around the Great Lakes. They winter along the Pacific Coast of California, along the Atlantic Coast from Delaware to Florida, and along the Gulf Coast. In the winter they seek out shallow, freshwater and brackish bays, estuaries, and tidal creeks and ponds.


Pair bonding begins in November or December.

Nesting is usually done in a hollow tree near a woodland stream or pond, but nest boxes and abandoned nest sites are also utilized. When in a tree, the nest will be 4 to 15 feet off the ground. The male abandons the female as soon as her eggs (7 to 15 per clutch) are laid. Incubation lasts about a month, during which period the female may lose up to 16% of her body weight.


Primary foods include aquatic insects, fish, and crustaceans.

Habits and Behaviors

Hooded mergansers are clumsy, but quick, flyers. They take off by running across the water to gain flight speed, and often land by "skiing" across the water to come to a stop.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Aves
order Anseriformes
family Anatidae
subfamily Anatinae
genus & species Lophodytes cucullatus

Animal Diversity Web

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The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Birds >> Order Anseriformes

This page was last updated on October 25, 2017.