Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

Kingdom
Phylum
Class
Order
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Lophodytes cucullatus
Population size
270-390 thou
Life Span
11-13 yrs
TOP SPEED
80.5 km/h
WEIGHT
453-879 g
LENGTH
40-49 cm
WINGSPAN
60-66 cm

The Hooded merganser is a small diving duck striking in appearance; both sexes have crests that they can raise or lower, and the breeding plumage of the male is handsomely patterned and colored. In breeding plumage the dorsal areas and the head, neck, and breast of the mature male are mainly black with white markings; there are large white patches on either side of the crest, and they are particularly conspicuous when he raises his crest during courtship. His lower flanks are a rich reddish-brown or chestnut in color, and the breast and undersides are more or less white, extending into white stripes across the crop and breast. The adult female has a greyish-brown body, with a narrow white patch over the lower breast and belly. She has a light reddish-brown crest extending from the back of the head. During the nonbreeding season, the male looks similar to the female, except that his eyes are yellow and the female's eyes are brown.

Di

Diurnal

Ca

Carnivore

Pi

Piscivores

In

Insectivores

Se

Semiaquatic

Wa

Waterfowl

Pr

Precocial

Te

Terrestrial

Co

Congregatory

Ov

Oviparous

Mo

Monogamy

So

Social

Mi

Migrating

H

starts with

Distribution

Geography

Hooded mergansers are native to North America. These birds are short-distance migrants, and they winter in the United States. They have two major year-round ranges. One is in the Eastern United States from the southern Canada-US border along the Atlantic Coast to the Gulf Coast in the region of the Mississippi delta. A smaller year-round range extends from Washington state and southern British Columbia to northern Idaho. They also breed in regions from Missouri to southern Canada and from Nova Scotia to eastern North Dakota and Saskatchewan, migrating when necessary to avoid winter conditions. Hooded mergansers live on small bodies of water such as ponds and small estuaries where there is ample emergent aquatic vegetation, but they also inhabit larger wetlands, impoundments, flooded timber, and rivers. They prefer fresh water but do occur on brackish water bodies as well.

Hooded Merganser habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Hooded mergansers are secretive and diurnal birds. They are usually seen in pairs or in small groups and outside of the breeding season, they may gather in large groups to roost at night. Hooded mergansers are diving predators that largely hunt by sight while under water. They are generally quiet but in order to communicate with each other will emit low grunting or croaking sounds.

Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition

Hooded mergansers are carnivores (piscivores) and their diet consists mainly of fishes. However, these birds will also feed on aquatic insects and other aquatic invertebrates such as crabs and crayfish.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
late February-late June
INCUBATION PERIOD
1 month
INDEPENDENT AGE
70 days
FEMALE NAME
duck
MALE NAME
drake
BABY NAME
duckling
BABY CARRYING
7-15 eggs

Hooded mergansers form monogamous pairs and they remain together until the female has selected a nesting cavity and completed laying her clutch. After that, the male leaves the female to incubate and care for the brood. Females will actively seek out cavities in dead trees or artificial nest boxes such as those provided for nesting wood ducks. They prefer cavities 4-15 feet (1-4 meters) off the ground. Breeding occurs anytime between the end of February and the end of June, depending on the region. The female will lay a clutch of 7-15 eggs and incubate them around a month. Like most waterfowl, Hooded merganser hatchlings are precocial and usually leave the nest within 24 hours after they hatch. Once they leave the nest, the young are capable of diving and foraging but remain with the female for warmth and protection. They start flying at around 70 days of age and become reproductively mature in 2 years.

Population

Population threats

The main threat to Hooded mergansers is habitat loss due to deforestation, and agricultural expansion as these birds are cavity nesters and require mature trees with suitable nesting sites. Because of their high reliance on aquatic prey, Hooded mergansers are also very susceptible to harm from many types of pollution; some of these are poisons that accumulate in the food organisms, directly poisoning predators high in the food chain, and some of which simply reduce the populations of their prey.

Population number

According to the What Bird resource, the total population size of the Hooded mergansers is around 270,000 to 390,000 individuals. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are increasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The genus name of the Hooded merganser 'Lophodytes' comes from the Greek language where 'lophos' means 'crest', and 'dutes' - is 'diver'.
  • The Hooded merganser is the second smallest species of merganser, and it is also the only merganser whose native habitat is restricted to North America.
  • Hooded mergansers are one of the fastest flying ducks as wells as one of the quickest diving ducks.
  • When Hooded merganser ducklings are in the water, they may gather in a very compact group resembling a muskrat in swimming; they do so to cheat aerial predators such as hawks for example.
  • When pursuing their prey under the water, Hooded mergansers are able to stay submerged for up to 2 minutes.
  • Being strong swimmers, Hooded mergansers are very clumsy on land; this is because their legs are located far back on their body.

References

1. Hooded Merganser on Wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hooded_merganser
2. Hooded Merganser on The IUCN Red List site - https://www.iucnredlist.org/species/22680472/92863561
3. Xeno-canto bird call - https://xeno-canto.org/346072

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