Common Merganser

Mergus merganser




Ducks, Geese and Swans (Anatidae)

Code 4


Code 6



Egg Color:

Light buff or yellow

Number of Eggs:

6 - 17

Incubation Days:

65 - 70

Egg Incubator:


Nest Location:

On ground., In tree cavity or abandoned nest.

Nest Material:

Lined with down., Wood chips in base of cavity.





Common Merganser: Large, sleek diving duck with black upperparts and white underparts. Head and upper neck are green-black with head crest usually not visible. Long, thin bill is bright red. Wings are black with extensive white patches. Female is gray overall with red-brown, crested head and neck, white chin, dull white upper breast and belly, and orange bill. Juvenile resembles female but has more white on chin, a faint white eye-ring, and duller bill. Eclipse male resembles both but is more distinctly dark and light gray mottled.

Range and Habitat

Common Merganser: Common throughout much of North America. Breeds from eastern Alaska to Newfoundland on wooded rivers, ponds, and lakes. Resident in Northern New England, southern Ontario and Quebec, and in the western states. Spends winters in south as far as Mexico, mainly on large lakes and rivers, occasionally on saltwater.

Breeding and Nesting

Common Merganser: Six to seventeen light buff or yellow eggs are laid in a down-lined hollow on the ground or in a tree cavity. Incubation ranges from 28 to 35 days and is carried out by the female; young begin to fly at 65 to 70 days.

Foraging and Feeding

Common Merganser: Feeds on insects, small fish, and aquatic plants. Forages by diving from the surface and chasing down prey underwater; hooked upper mandible with serrations are designed to catch slippery fish.


Common Merganser: Call is that of low, rasping croaks.

Similar Species

Common Merganser: Red-breasted Merganser has streaked or spotted breast, gray sides, and distinct crest.


Belly, undertail coverts, chest, flanks, and foreneck.

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.
The area of the face just below the bill.
Tufts of feathers on the head of the bird.
Upper mandibleX
The upper part of the bill.
Parts of a Standing bird X
Head Feathers and Markings X
Parts of a Flying bird X