Red-breasted Merganser

Mergus serrator

A picture of a female and male red-breasted merganser pair
Image by M.Buschmann on Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 3.0

Physical: The red-breasted merganser is a moderately sized sawbill duck, a name that comes from its serrated bill for catching fish. Males and females look very different from each other. Breeding males have dark black and metallic green heads with a two-pointed crest and white band around the neck. Their breasts are rusty red with black speckles, their backs are black, and their wings are grey and white. Females are overall greyish brown with white marks on the chin, throat, breast, and belly. They also have the two-tufted crest on their head.

Habitat: Red-breasted merganser migrate seasonally. They live in lakes and rivers during most of the year, and spend winters in coastal waters and estuaries. Their range covers almost all of Canada and the US, and along the coastline of Mexico.

Feeding: As fish-eating ducks, they dive into the water to catch their prey. In addition to fish, red-breasted merganser also eat crustaceans, aquatic insects, tadpoles, frogs, and worms. Ducklings feed mostly on insects.

Breeding: Red-breasted merganser fly to northern forests and tundra to breed. Males do a courtship display on the water, stretching their necks and dipping the front of their body into the water. Females will find a sheltered nesting spot on the ground, near the water. Breeding pairs lay 7-10 eggs, which the female incubates for 29-35 days.

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