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Hooded Merganser

Scientific Name:

Lophodytes cucullatus




Forested wetlands, ponds and rivers


Most common in the Great Lakes. Found throughout the eastern United States and the Pacific Northwest


Least Concern

This species is


to the Truckee Meadows.


If there were a contest among ducks for the most decorative head, the hooded merganser would certainly be in the final round. Hooded Mergansers are easily identified by their hood; the male has a large fan shaped black crest with a white patch in the middle. The crest can be lowered or raised. His narrow, serrated bill is black, as is his back, while his breast is bright white and his flanks or sides are a deep chestnut color. While the female is far less dramatic in appearance, she is mostly gray and brown, she does have a cinnamon colored spiky hood on her head. Hooded mergansers are small, about one to two pounds in weight, up to 19 inches in length and with a wingspan of up to 26 inches. Hooded Mergansers are diving ducks and forage while swimming underwater. Their diet consists of small fish, tadpoles, aquatic insects and some aquatic plants. They nest in the cavities of dead trees or nest boxes that are 10 to 50 feet off the ground. Their legs are far back on their body, which helps with swimming underwater, and are used for their running on the water style of takeoff.

Fast Facts:

  • Hooded Mergansers have a “nictitating membrane” or an extra clear eyelid that acts as goggles so that they can see clearly underwater.

  • Female hooded mergansers can lay up to 13 eggs in a clutch. They are also known to lay their eggs in the nests of other Hooded Mergansers, “brood parasitism” has resulted in nests with 44 eggs!

  • Twenty-four hours after the eggs hatch, the tiny chicks leave the nest, dropping 10-50 feet down to the ground and following their mother to the water. Once the chicks are in the water, they can forage and feed themselves but they stay with their mother for about 70 days.



Regina Hockett (research & content)

Caroline Stillitano (edits & page design)

Last Updated:

March 27, 2024 at 1:48:22 AM

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