Comprehensive Guide to selected species of:
Birds of the Boreal Forest « back to Guide
Hooded Merganser Lophodytes cucullatus
Family: Ducks and Geese, Anatidae
Audio: Martyn Stewart, © Naturesound.org
An estimated 54% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.
Description 16-19" (41-48 cm). A small duck with a slender pointed bill. Male has white, fan-shaped, black-bordered crest, blackish body with dull rusty flanks, and white breast with 2 black stripes down side. Female is dull gray-brown, with warmer brown head and crest. Both sexes show white wing patch in flight.
Habitat Breeds on wooded ponds, lakes, and rivers; winters in coastal marshes and inlets.
Nesting 8-12 white eggs in a down-lined cup in a natural tree cavity or sometimes in a fallen hollow log.
Voice Hoarse grunts and chatters.
Range Breeds from southern Alaska south to Oregon and Montana, and from Manitoba and Nova Scotia south to Arkansas and northern Alabama. Winters near coast from British Columbia south to California and from New England south to Florida and Texas.
Discussion The smallest of our mergansers, Hoodeds are most often seen along rivers and in estuaries during the fall and winter. They are usually found in pairs or in flocks of up to a dozen; when startled, they are among the fastest-flying of our ducks. Males perform a beautiful courtship display and, once mated, swim energetically around the female in further ritual displays. Hoodeds feed chiefly on small fish, which they pursue in long, rapid, underwater dives, but also take small frogs, newts, tadpoles, and aquatic insects.