Boreal Birds
300+ species, billions of birds rely on Canada's boreal forest as critical breeding grounds
© Peter Massas/Wikimedia Commons (CC 2.0)

Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser
Mergus serrator
Duck-like Birds | Family: Ducks and Geese, Anatidae

An estimated 46% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.

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Overview

The Red-breasted Merganser breeds farther north than its relatives and is also the most common winter merganser on salt water, especially where rocky coves provide good fishing. Like the other two species, it lives mainly on fish, which it captures in swift underwater dives, aided by its long pointed bill lined with sharp, tooth-like projections. Often found searching for food alone, these birds also gather in large flocks where fish are abundant.

Description

19-26" (48-66 cm). Male has green head with wispy crest, gray sides, white neck ring, and rusty breast. Female grayish, with reddish-brown head shading gradually into gray of neck. Both sexes are crested and have red bills.

Voice

Usually silent; various croaking and grunting notes during courtship.

Nesting

8-10 olive-buff eggs in a down-lined depression concealed under a bush or in a brush pile.

Habitat

Breeds on wooded lakes and tundra ponds; winters mainly on salt water.

Range/Migration

Breeds in Alaska and across northern Canada to Newfoundland and south to Great Lakes. Winters chiefly along coasts from Alaska south to California, from Maritime Provinces south to Florida, and along Gulf Coast. Also in Eurasia.