Hooded Merganser - Mergus cucullatus

Hooded mergansers can chase fish underwater for up to two minutes!

“Where I live”

The hooded merganser is an exclusively North American duck. Hooded mergansers leave inland lakes and ponds in the fall and migrate to the east and west coasts of the U.S.
During the winter, they can be seen in the Chesapeake Bay region, seeking freshwater wherever possible.

“How I live there”

The hooded merganser is a diving duck that prefers running water, freshwater, and woods. During breeding season, it is found on clear-water streams, ponds, and lakes. In winter, it seeks forested wetlands, brackish estuaries and tidal creeks.

Hooded mergansers do not eat much plant material. Their diet is made up mostly of small fish, crawfish, and aquatic insects. Unlike the beaks of most waterfowl, theirs are long and serrated. They catch prey by diving underwater and are well-adapted to see and catch fish underwater.

“Making my mark”

During courtship, the male hooded merganser makes a distinctive, rolling, frog-like crrroooooo call that can be heard from a distance.

Raising Young

Hooded mergansers renew pair bonds yearly and split up at the start of incubation. Females nest in cavities found in trees, usually very near water. Very often, they will come back to the same nesting sites used in the past. Females line their nests with downy feathers from their own chests. They lay clutches of 6-15 eggs and incubate them for 29-37 days. Because of the protection afforded by nest cavities, egg survival seems to be quite high with hooded mergansers. The same can’t be said of ducklings. Mortality among hooded merganser ducklings can be high, and it’s not entirely clear why.

Conservation

While the overall population of hooded mergansers in North America appears stable, the number wintering in the Chesapeake region has been dropping recently.

Quick Facts:

Range:
North America

Status:
least concern

Habitat:
forested wetlands during breeding season; open waters, shallower waters, along coasts during winter

Diet- Carnivore:
mostly fish, aquatic insects, crawfish, some plant material

Active:
diurnal

Offspring:
5-44 eggs/;clutch

Length:
15.7–19.3 in
(40–49 cm)

Weight:
16–31 oz
(453–879 g)

Penguin Encounters

New African Penguin Exhibit

Mammals

Birds

Reptiles

Amphibians

Elephant Program

Conservation

Animal Experiences

Rise & Conquer