Hooded merganser

Latin Name
Mergus cucullatus




The hooded merganser is a sexually dimorphic species, meaning males and females differ in appearance. The female has a brown body, with a white underside and a light brown crest extending from the back of the head. The male has a similar appearance during nonbreeding season (although his eyes are yellow while the female's are brown). During breeding season, however, the male's plumage changes color: The head, back and neck become black, with white stripes near the chest and tail, and the bird develops a white crest on the back of the head that can be extended to attract mates.



Southern Canada through the United States




Breeds in forested areas near small lakes, pools and streams and winters on large lakes, rivers and brackish coastal lagoons and estuaries.


The hooded merganser is a diving duck, finding its prey underwater by sight. The species feeds on aquatic insects, fish and crustaceans.

Life History

The hooded merganser nests above the ground in tree cavities. The male leaves the female soon after she lays her eggs, leaving her responsible for all incubation. After hatching, chicks leave the nest with their mother within 24 hours; they are already able to dive and feed themselves, although they remain with their mother for another five weeks.

Special Adaptations
  • Like all ducks, the hooded merganser's feet are thin and flat, making it easier for them to paddle through the water.
  • The hooded merganser has a nictitating membrane (a transparent eyelid) that protects the species' eyes and enables it to see better while diving underwater.