|Conservation status||Apparently stable in Northwest. Population in eastern North America evidently has declined substantially over the last century.|
|Family||Ducks and Geese|
|Habitat||Mountain streams in summer; rocky coastal waters in winter. Nests along shallow fast-moving rivers and streams, even around rapids and waterfalls, often in forested country. Generally not on streams fed by melting glaciers (where food may be scarce). At other seasons mostly on ocean, on exposed coastlines where waves pound on rocks, seldom on sheltered bays.|
forages by swimming underwater or by diving and walking on the bottom; also by dabbling at surface or up-ending in shallow water. Uses bill to pry food items off of rocks underwater.
usually 5-7, sometimes 3-10. Pale buff or cream. Incubation is by female only, 27-30 days. Female covers eggs with down when leaving nest. Young: leave nest shortly after hatching. Young are tended by female but feed themselves; are able to dive when quite small, but take most food from water's surface at first. Broods often combine under care of multiple adult females. Age at first flight probably 5-6 weeks after hatching.
leave nest shortly after hatching. Young are tended by female but feed themselves; are able to dive when quite small, but take most food from water's surface at first. Broods often combine under care of multiple adult females. Age at first flight probably 5-6 weeks after hatching.
mollusks, crustaceans, insects. Diet at sea is mostly mollusks (including mussels and periwinkles) and crustaceans (including crabs and others); also a few small fish, marine worms. On rivers may eat mostly aquatic insects, and may eat small amounts of plant material.
First breeds at age of 2 years. Pairs form during winter and spring. Several males may court one female, surrounding her on water. Displays of male involve raising tail and stretching neck, with ritualized head-bobbing movements. Nest site is on ground, usually close to water, well hidden under bushes or among rocks; in Pacific Northwest, rarely nests in tree cavity. Nest (built by female) is shallow depression with grasses, weeds, twigs, lined with down.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
Download Our Bird Guide App
Mostly a short-distance migrant, moving from inland nesting areas to nearby coasts. Migrates in small flocks, usually following rivers or coastlines.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsA mouse-like squeak and various low whistles.
Learn more about this sound collection.