Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)

A small fish-eating duck of wooded ponds, the hooded merganser nests in holes in trees. It is frequently seen on shallow
waters where its only waterfowl companion is the wood duck. The Zoo has a pair of mergansers. They both hatched in the spring of 2008.


Male Breeding Plumage: Circular crest with large white patch, outlined in black. Face and back black. Eyes gold. Sides rusty. Chest white, bordered by black and white stripes. Bill dark with yellow base. Winter Plumage: Back, sides, and breast grayish brown. Belly white. Crest dusky. Eyes yellow. Bill black. Female: Brownish head, body and tail with bushy rufous crest. Breast and neck slate grey. Wings blackish brown. Small white patch on chin and base of wings. Eyes brownish buff. Upper bill blackish green with orange edge, lower bill orange or yellowish.


Breeds in forested wetlands. In migration and in winter found in open waters, along coasts, and in shallower waters than other mergansers.


Western breeding range from central British Columbia to coastal Oregon and western Montana. Eastern breeding range from Saskatchewan and Dakotas east to Atlantic Coast north to Nova Scotia, south to Louisiana and northern Florida. Winters from southeastern Alaska to southern California, and Arizona. Also from southeastern Minnesota, southern Ontario, and central Maine south to Gulf Coast and Florida.


Fish, aquatic insects and crustaceans (especially crayfish).

Life Span: 

Up to 11 years.

Family Life: 

Nest in tree cavity or nest box, lined with downy feathers from chest of female. Five to 44 white eggs per nest, although one female probably does not lay more than about 13. Larger clutches result when more than one female lays eggs in a nest. Young hatch covered with down, eyes open and leave nest within one day, foraging for food on their own.