Male Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser Female


MerganserThe Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) are small ducks.



The Hooded Mergansers have a crest at the back of the head which can be expanded or contracted.

Females have dark eyes. Males have pale eyes.

The adult male has a black crest with a large white patch. HIs head is black. His sides are reddish brown.

The adult female has a reddish crest, with much of the rest of the head and body a greyish-brown.

The Hooded Merganse has a sawbill – a bill with serrated edges that allow them to grip their prey.

Juveniles look like females, but have grey-brown necks and upperparts (black on adult females).

Hooded Merganser
(Lophodytes cucullatus) - Male


Immature MaleDistribution / Habitat

Hooded Mergansers breed in swamps and wooded ponds on the northern half of the United States or southern Canada; and winter in the United States wherever winter temperatures allow for ice free conditions on ponds, lakes and rivers.

Although Hooded Mergansers are commonly kept in captivity in Europe, most records in the wild are believed to be escapes.

A small number of them have, however, been accepted as genuine wild vagrants.

They form pairs in early winter and usually nest in tree cavities near water but will use Wood Duck nesting boxes if available and unoccupied.

Hooded Merganser Duck Nestbox

Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) - Juvenile Male



Relevant Resources


Diet / Feeding:

Hooded Mergansers feed by diving and swimming under water to collect small fish, crustaceans and aquatic insects.

Ducks generally feed on larvae and pupae often found under rocks, as well as aquatic animals, plant material, seeds, small fish, snails and crabs.

Feeding Ducks …

We all enjoy ducks and many of us offer them food to encourage them to come over and stay around – and it works! Who doesn’t like an easy meal!

However, the foods that we traditionally feed them at local ponds are utterly unsuitable for them and are likely to cause health problems down the road. Also, there may be local laws against feeding this species of bird – so it’s best to check on that rather than facing consequences at a later stage.

Please note that feeding ducks and geese makes them dependent on humans for food, which can result in starvation and possibly death when those feedings stop. If you decide to feed them, please limit the quantity to make sure that they maintain their natural ability to forage for food themselves – providing, of course, that natural food sources are available.

Hooded Merganser - FemaleFemale Hooded Merganser

Species Research by Sibylle Johnson


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