Photo: Rob Curtis/Vireo

Hooded Merganser

Lophodytes cucullatus

Conservation status Undoubtedly declined in past with loss of nesting habitat (large mature trees near water). Now population seems to be increasing, helped by artificial nest boxes, including those intended for Wood Ducks.
Family Ducks and Geese
Habitat Wooded lakes, ponds, rivers. In summer in forested country, along creeks, narrow rivers, edges of ponds. May be in more open marsh habitats if artificial nest sites are provided. In winter on woodland ponds, wooded swamps, fresh and brackish coastal estuaries.
Mergansers are our only ducks that specialize in eating fish. The Hooded is the smallest of our three native merganser species, and often seems to be the least numerous, as it tends to live around swamps and wooded ponds where it may be overlooked. A cavity nester along wooded waterways in the temperate parts of North America, it has probably benefitted by taking advantage of nest boxes put out for Wood Ducks.
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Feeding Behavior

forages by diving and swimming underwater, propelled by feet. Apparently finds all its food by sight; eyes adapted for good underwater vision.


Eggs

10-12, sometimes 7-13. White. Eggshell thicker than in most ducks. Females often lay eggs in each others' nests, also in nests of Wood Ducks and others. Incubation is by female only, 26-41 days, usually about 33 days. Young: within 24 hours after hatching, young leave nest; female calls to them from below, young climb to cavity entrance and jump to ground. Young find their own food; female tends young for several weeks. Young fledge about 70 days after hatching.


Young

within 24 hours after hatching, young leave nest; female calls to them from below, young climb to cavity entrance and jump to ground. Young find their own food; female tends young for several weeks. Young fledge about 70 days after hatching.

Diet

fish and other aquatic life. Feeds mainly on small fish, crayfish and other crustaceans, and aquatic insects; also some tadpoles, a few mollusks, small amounts of plant material. Young ducklings eat mostly insects at first.


Nesting

Pairs may form in late fall or winter. In most courtship displays, male's crest is prominently raised and spread. Nest site is in tree cavity near water, usually 10'-50' above ground, rarely up to 80' or more. Also uses artificial nest boxes. Nest of natural wood chips and debris in bottom of cavity, with down added.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
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Migration

Mostly a short-distance migrant; southerly breeders may be permanent residents. Migration is relatively late in fall and early in spring.

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Migration

Mostly a short-distance migrant; southerly breeders may be permanent residents. Migration is relatively late in fall and early in spring.

Songs and Calls
Hoarse grunts and chatters.