hooded merganser

Hooded Merganser

Mergus cucullatus


The Hooded Merganser is a small to medium sized duck with a long bill and a fluffy crest of feathers on the top of its head. The male has a black and white patterned body with brown wings. His crest contains a large white patch. The female Hooded Merganser has an overall drab brown color with a white belly


A Hooded Merganser weighs about 1.5 pounds and is 16-19" in length with a 26" wingspan.



In the wild, Hooded Mergansers dive under the water to eat small fish, frogs, newts, tadpoles, and insects. At Cosley Zoo, these ducks are fed a commercial duck diet.


Hooded Mergansers can begin reproducing when they are 2 years of age. They form pairs in early winter and breed between March and May. Mergansers prefer to nest in tree cavities, and often look for nests that have been built and abandoned by another bird. The female lays 7-15 eggs, which she incubates for one month. The day after the ducklings hatch, they leave the nest and the female looks over them for 8-10 weeks until they learn to fly.

Shelter and Space Needs

Hooded Mergansers are usually found in wooded ponds, lakes, and rivers surrounded by woodlands. They prefer bodies of water that are calm and clear so they can see their food more easily.

Life Expectancy

Uncertain for this breed. In general, ducks live an average of 2 years in the wild and can live over 10 years in captivity.

Importance to Man

The Hooded Merganser is a distinctive and beautiful duck which bird watchers enjoy viewing. Occasionally, Hooded Mergansers are hunted for sport. These ducks also help to control populations of fish and amphibians. Many scientific studies involve Hooded Mergansers because they will lay eggs in artificial nest boxes.

Fun Facts