Hooded MerganserLophodytes cucullatus

adult male, breeding
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
adult female
John Heidecker/VIREO
 adults and first year male
Johann Schumacher/VIREO
adult male, breeding
Rob Curtis/VIREO

Description

Mergansers are our only ducks that specialize in eating fish. The Hooded is the smallest of our three native merganser species, and often seems to be the least numerous, as it tends to live around swamps and wooded ponds where it may be overlooked. A cavity nester along wooded waterways in the temperate parts of North America, it has probably benefitted by taking advantage of nest boxes put out for Wood Ducks.

Habitat

Wooded lakes, ponds, rivers. In summer in forested country, along creeks, narrow rivers, edges of ponds. May be in more open marsh habitats if artificial nest sites are provided. In winter on woodland ponds, wooded swamps, fresh and brackish coastal estuaries.

Feeding Diet

fish and other aquatic life. Feeds mainly on small fish, crayfish and other crustaceans, and aquatic insects; also some tadpoles, a few mollusks, small amounts of plant material. Young ducklings eat mostly insects at first.

Feeding Behavior

forages by diving and swimming underwater, propelled by feet. Apparently finds all its food by sight; eyes adapted for good underwater vision.

Nesting

Pairs may form in late fall or winter. In most courtship displays, male's crest is prominently raised and spread. Nest site is in tree cavity near water, usually 10'-50' above ground, rarely up to 80' or more. Also uses artificial nest boxes. Nest of natural wood chips and debris in bottom of cavity, with down added. Eggs: 10-12, sometimes 7-13. White. Eggshell thicker than in most ducks. Females often lay eggs in each others' nests, also in nests of Wood Ducks and others. Incubation is by female only, 26-41 days, usually about 33 days. Young: within 24 hours after hatching, young leave nest; female calls to them from below, young climb to cavity entrance and jump to ground. Young find their own food; female tends young for several weeks. Young fledge about 70 days after hatching.

Eggs

10-12, sometimes 7-13. White. Eggshell thicker than in most ducks. Females often lay eggs in each others' nests, also in nests of Wood Ducks and others. Incubation is by female only, 26-41 days, usually about 33 days. Young: within 24 hours after hatching, young leave nest; female calls to them from below, young climb to cavity entrance and jump to ground. Young find their own food; female tends young for several weeks. Young fledge about 70 days after hatching.

Young

within 24 hours after hatching, young leave nest; female calls to them from below, young climb to cavity entrance and jump to ground. Young find their own food; female tends young for several weeks. Young fledge about 70 days after hatching.

Conservation

Undoubtedly declined in past with loss of nesting habitat (large mature trees near water). Now population seems to be increasing, helped by artificial nest boxes, including those intended for Wood Ducks.

Range

Mostly a short-distance migrant; southerly breeders may be permanent residents. Migration is relatively late in fall and early in spring.

Listen

male pops & growls

Similar Species

adult male, breeding

Bufflehead

A diminutive diver, one of our smallest ducks, often very energetic in its feeding. Related to the goldeneyes and, like them, nests in cavities; but unlike other hole-nesting ducks, the Bufflehead is small enough to use unmodified old nest holes of Northern Flickers, giving it a ready source of good nest sites. Less sociable than most ducks, seen in pairs or small groups, almost never in large flocks. Takes wing easily from the water, flies with rapid wingbeats. The name "Bufflehead" is derived from "buffalo-head," for the male's odd puffy head shape.

adult male, breeding

Common Merganser

This fish-eating duck is the typical merganser of freshwater lakes. Its flocks are usually small, but these may combine into big concentrations sometimes at large reservoirs. Common Mergansers living along rivers may spend hours resting on rocks or on shore. The British call this bird the "Goosander." In some parts of Europe, with artificial nesting sites provided, the species has become a common nesting bird along city waterfronts; this has not yet happened in North America.

adult male, breeding

Red-breasted Merganser

A slim, crested, fish-eating duck, commonly seen around jetties and piers along the coast. Superficially this species is quite similar to the Common Merganser. However, the Red-breasted Merganser nests farther north, winters mostly on salt water, and nests mainly on the ground, while the Common winters mostly on fresh water and nests in cavities.

Vireo

iPad Promo