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  ScienceZoologyBirdsOrder Anseriformes
pair of Red-Breasted MergansersRed-Breasted Merganser

Mergus serrator


This large, thin diving duck is 20 to 25 inches long, has a wingspan of 26 to 29 inches, and weighs 1 to 3 pounds.

It is differentiated from other mergansers by its extra-long, shaggy crest and white wing patches. The male has gray sides, dark reddish chest, white neck, and iridescent green head. The female is dull gray with reddish head and shaggy double crest. Both sexes have a scarlet-orange bill and red eyes.

distribution of the Red-Breasted Merganser in North AmericaDistribution and Habitat

The red-breasted merganser breeds across Alaska and northern Canada, as well as in Greenland, Iceland, and across northern Eurasia. It winters throughout much of North America, as well as in southern Europe and China.

Found in large lakes, rivers, and the ocean, the red-breasted prefers salt water more than any other species of merganser.


The nest is a depression in the ground, often placed under a boulder or in dense shrubs.


Expert "fishermen," these birds often feed in the ocean, in nearby salt marshes, or in river mouths. Their diet consists primarily of fish, supplemented with crustaceans, insects, and tadpoles. When feeding, they dip their heads under water up to their eyes, then dive down rapidly to catch their prey.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Aves
order Anseriformes
family Anatidae
subfamily Anatinae
genus & species Mergus serrator

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This page was last updated on September 28, 2015.

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