Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0) Hooded MerganserLophodytes cucullatus LC

Range - Distribution and Habitat of the Hooder Merganser:

Range Map of Hooded Merganser
 Hooded merganser range map

Original Source of Map of North America from

Modified by:

The breeding range for the Hooded Merganser is mainly in eastern Canada. It highest densities occur in the area of the Great Lakes Region of southern Ontario and Quebec. However, it may also be found breeding in south-eastern Saskatchewan, southern Manitoba, southern Nova Scotia as well as the provinces of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

Like the Common Merganser it prefers to nest in tree cavities of hardwood forests and it likes to be close to clear water with an ample supply of small fish. Given the fore mentioned criterial it is not surprising to find that it likes forested wetlands of either fresh or brackish water. You will find them on rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, flooded timber, and larger impoundments.

Its win­ter­ing range in­cludes an area along the Pa­cific Coast in Cal­i­for­nia, and sec­ondly. An area of from the east coast of the United States westward to Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas.

Description of Hooded Merganser:

Hooded Merganser


The hooded merganser is not a true merganser in that it is the only surviving species of the genus Lophodytes. However, because of its saw-bill it is grouped with the Mergansers. As a Merganser is the second smallest member of the three North American subgroups and is the only exclusive member to North America. You will also find it listed as either a Sea Duck or a Diving Duck.

Except for the shape of its bill. It is very difficult to ascertain the difference between a Hooded Merganser and a Goldeneye-Bufflehead. It has been suggested that these two groups be bundled into one.

In true Merganser fashion it has a long, narrow, serrated bill. Its’ colour is brown to black on its back and wings. Its underside is white.

Males can be distinguished from females from the colouring of their head (black), crest (black), and eye colour (yellow). In comparison to the females’ red - brown head and crest along with a duller brown iris.

The Hooded Merganser has an overall length of 15.75 to 19.3 inches (40 to 49 cm.) and a body mass of 1.2 to 1.5 pounds (0.54 to 0.68 Kg.).

The life expectancy of a wild Hooded Merganser is thought to be 11.5 years of age.

This species is frequently observed in pairs. They also have a short rapid wing stroke that gives this bird the illusion of rapid flight.

Diet and Foraging Strategy of the Hooded Merganser:

With a diet that consists of mainly fish (44 to 81%), crustaceans (22 to 50%), and aquatic insects (13 to 20%). This bird is considered to be a carnivore.

It is an aquatic predator that usually visually seeks out and catches its prey underwater. As such, it prefers clear waters to hunt and fish in.

Breeding and Reproduction of the Hooded Merganser:

Most Hooded mergansers comes back to their breeding grounds somewhere between March and April. The bond between paired mates is a monogamous one that was formed in the winter months of November to January. It is not known if the monogamous bond is a yearly formation or if it is carried on in future years. This will be the only nesting attempt in the year. The male does not participate in the rearing process once the incubating process has started.

The Hooded Merganser has a lot of courtship rituals that include the male performing Crest-raising of its front, Head-shaking, Head-throws with Turning-the-back-of-the-head, Pumping, an Upward-stretch (This is a simple Head-shaking stretch with an erect crest), an Upward-stretch with Wing-flapping. (This is like the Upward-stretch but the wings are also flapped several times), Ritualized Drinking, and Tail-cocking (The male usually swims ahead of the female with his tail cocked at about a 45-degree angle.).

The female will perform Bobbing (the females’ head moves in a jerky, upward bobbing fashion, with the bill pointed downward, while emitting a hoarse Guck sound.), Pumping, and Ritualized Drinking.

It is the female that initiates the Drake to copulate. She does this by stretching out in a prone and stationary position on the water after the pair have performed ritualized drinking displays. The male will then perform numerous displays of ritualized drinking and stretching displays before mounting her.

The female will lay her clutch of eggs that averages 7 to 15 eggs in a tree cavity that is normally 4 to 15 ft. (1.2 to 4.6 ft.) from level ground. It takes her 26 to 41 days to incubate the eggs. Hatchlings are born in an advanced state of development (precocial) and are able to walk, swim and feed themselves after drying.

The hen, will within 24, take her brood to the nearest waterway where she will teach them to fend for themselves. The first days of a chicks’ life is spent feeding on the surface of the water. Not much else is known about the rearing process, except that the hatchling are fully independent in about 5 weeks.

Status of Hooded Merganser:

The Hooded Merganser was assessed by BirdLife International in 2016 and was placed on the ICUN’s Red List as a species of Least Concern. Justification for this assessment on the Red List was because it has a very large range and a large population.

Of all of Canada’s sea ducks, this species is thought to have the lowest population. Mergansers in general are not heavily harvested by hunters but this species of Merganser is the most harvested.


Hooded Merganser

Creative Commons

  • International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources - Source: IUCN
  • Animal Diversity Web - Roof, J. 1999. "Lophodytes cucullatus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 12, 2018 at
  • The Sexual Behavior And Systematic Position Of The Hooded Merganser PAUL A. JOHNSGARD -
  • [42] Illustrations from -

Public Domain

  • Population Status of Migratory Game Birds in Canada 2015 - CWS Migratory Birds Regulatory Report Number 45
  • Waterfowl Identification Guide Reprinted and adapted by Environment Canada -
  • General Nesting Periods of Migratory Birds in Canada -
  • Status of Birds in Canada 2014 -
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