Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)

Hooded Merganser

[order] ANSERIFORMES | [family] Anatidae | [latin] Lophodytes cucullatus | [authority] Linnaeus, 1758 | [UK] Hooded Merganser | [FR] Harle couronne | [DE] Kappensager | [ES] Serreta de Caperuza (Me), Serreta Capuchona | [NL] Kokarde-zaagbek


Monotypic species


The Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) is a small duck and is the only member of the genus Lophodytes. Need running start to become airborne. Feet placed far back on body. Sexes dimorphic. Mergansers have an elongate, streamlined body and a long, narrow, serrated bill. Originally described in the genus Mergus, the Hooded Merganser (L. cucullatus) was segregated in the genus Lophodytes in 1853. Delacour and Mayr (1945), however, lumped Lophodytes back into Mergus, and some authors, have followed this classification. In some respects the Hooded Merganser is intermediate between Bucephala and Mergus. The Hooded Merganser to represents an early branch of the mergansers, lying outside a cluster including the Common (M. merganser) and Red-breasted (M. serrator) mergansers and just above the branch leading to the genera Bucephala and Mergellus.

Physical charateristics

At 40-49 cm, the Hooded Merganser is the smallest North American merganser. Exact weights have not been documented. Like all mergansers, it has a long, narrow, serrated bill. It has a brownish-black back and wings, with a white underside. The male has a black head with a white, fan-shaped crest, which is bordered in black. The males iris is bright yellow, while the iris of females and immature males is duller brown.

Listen to the sound of Hooded Merganser

[audio:http://www.planetofbirds.com/MASTER/ANSERIFORMES/Anatidae/sounds/Hooded Merganser.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 0 cm wingspan max.: 0 cm
size min.: 40 cm size max.: 49 cm
incubation min.: 28 days incubation max.: 30 days
fledging min.: 1 days fledging max.: 30 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 7  
      eggs max.: 15  


North America : widespread


The Hooded Merganser nests in forested wetlands throughout its range. Some records show nesting in man-made boxes on grasslands and in nonforested wetlands. The kind of forest used for nesting varies from spruce/fur to cottonwood/elder and oak/cypress/tupelo, depending on the geographic location. In the winter they seek out shallow, freshwater and brackish bays, estuaries, and tidal creeks and ponds.


Females select the nest site, which is usually a cavity in a dead or live tree. Nest boxes, along with already built and abandoned nest sites, are preferred. Cavities are usually 4-15 feet off the ground. Between 7 and 15 eggs are laid shortly after the nest is completed, from late February through early June, depending on latitude, although most breeding occurs in March and April. Incubation begins after all the eggs have been laid. The male abandons the female shortly after this point. The female incubates for nearly one month, during which time she loses 8-16% of her body weight. After the ducklings hatch they usually leave the nest within about 24 hours. Females brood eggs in the nest and care for young after hatching. Males leave the female soon after egg incubation begins. Young hooded mergansers leave their nest within 24 hours of hatching and are able to feed and dive immediately upon emergence from the nest. There is little information on parental care after hatching. One female abandoned her brood 5 weeks after hatching.

Feeding habits

Hooded Mergansers feed in clear aquatic habitats, such as forested ponds, rivers, streams, and flooded forests. Their primary foods include aquatic insects, fish, and crustaceans.

Video Hooded Merganser


copyright: youtube


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
The Hooded Merganser breeds throughout the Pacific Northwest of the United States, across southern Canada, and east of the Mississippi. It is largely concentrated in forested regions around the Great Lakes. Wintering ranges include an area along the Pacific Coast of California, and a second area of coastal habitats from Delaware through Texas. Although the Hooded Merganser is mostly aquatic and awkward on land, females lead their ducklings up to 1.2 km across land from inland nests in order to reach water. Hooded Mergansers are clumsy, but quick, flyers. They take off by running on water, and they have a ceaseless and rapid wingbeat during flight. They land at high speeds and are often seen ‘skiing’ across the water to come to a stop. They dive well, holding their wings in close to their body and propelling themselves underwater with their feet. They have been seen gathering at roost sites in large groups during the nonbreeding season. Little is known about their territoriality during the breeding season.
Hooded Merganser status Least Concern


Forested wetlands, brackish estuaries and tidal creeks are preferred wintering habitats. Hooded mergansers winter along the Pacific, Atlantic, and Gulf coasts, mainly from southeastern Alaska to northern Baja California, and New England to Florida and west to northern Mexico. The majority of wintering hooded mergansers occur in the Mississippi Flyway.

Distribution map

Hooded Merganser distribution range map


Author(s): Octavio R. Rojas-Soto and Alejandro de Alba Bocanegra
Abstract: The Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) is an..[more]..
Source: ORNITOLOGIA NEOTROPICAL 13: 85-86, 2002

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Title Courtship of the Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)
Abstract: On the afternoon of March 17, 1933, a warm, spring..[more]..
Source: The AUK, vol. 50

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Title A Hooded Merganser from the Late Pleistocene of Oklahoma
Author(s): WILLIAM A. LUNK
Abstract: I have had the privilege of studying a number of s..[more]..
Source: The Condor, vol. 54

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