Red-breasted Merganser

Mergus serrator




Ducks, Geese and Swans (Anatidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Olive buff or green buff.

Number of Eggs:

5 - 16

Incubation Days:

29 - 35

Egg Incubator:


Nest Location:

On ground in hollow stump.

Nest Material:

Lined with down.





Red-breasted Merganser: Medium-sized diving duck with black upperparts, gray sides, rust-brown breast and white belly. Head, double crests and neck are green; neck ring is white. Bill is long, thin and red. Winter male's crown is darker and dark upperparts have broad, gray fringes; breast, sides and flanks are mostly gray with pale fringes. Females are gray overall with gray-washed, red-brown head, double crest; white breast and belly; red eyes.  Juvenile similar to female, has a much shorter crest, dark malar and dark gray plumage.

Range and Habitat

Red-breasted Merganser: Breeds in Alaska and across northern Canada to Newfoundland and south to the Great Lakes. Spends winters chiefly along the coasts from Alaska south to northern Mexico, from Maritime Provinces south to Florida, and along the Gulf Coast. Preferred habitat for breeding includes wooded lakes and tundra ponds; found mainly on saltwater during winter.

Breeding and Nesting

Red-breasted Merganser: Five to sixteen olive buff or green buff eggs are laid in a down-lined depression concealed under a bush or in a brush pile. Incubation ranges from 29 to 35 days and is carried out by the female.

Foraging and Feeding

Red-breasted Merganser: Their diet consists of mostly fish; they also eat crustaceans, worms, insects and amphibians. They are opportunistic feeders, but are selective when schooling fish are not present. They forage by diving from the surface to pursue prey underwater. Groups often hunt cooperatively, herding fish into shallow water where they are easier to catch.


Red-breasted Merganser: Utters croaks and grunts during courtship.

Similar Species

Red-breasted Merganser: Common Merganser lacks distinct crest and has white underparts. Female has a clean-cut line between its rust-brown neck and white breast.

Back, rump, hindneck, wings, and crown.
The ventral part of the bird, or the area between the flanks on each side and the crissum and breast. Flight muscles are located between the belly and the breast.
The upper front part of a bird.
Tufts of feathers on the head of the bird.
The crown is the top part of the birds head.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X