Hooded merganser

Hooded merganser
Lophodytes cucullatus
Photo by Bill Horn (Birds of Oklahoma)

Common name:
hooded merganser (en); merganso-capuchinho (pt); harle couronné (fr); serreta capuchona (es); kappensäger (de)

Order Anseriformes
Family Anatidae

This North American species breeds across mots of the eastern United States, in the north-western united States and across most of southern Canada. Some populations migrate south to winter along the coast of California and along the Atlantic coast from Delaware to Texas.

Hooded mergansers are 40-49 cm long and have a wingspan of 60-66 cm. They weigh 450-880 g.

They are generally found breeding in forested wetlands, namely spruce/fur to cottonwood/elder and oak/cypress/tupelo. They can also breed in wet grasslands and sometimes in open wetlands. During winter they prefer shallow, freshwater and brackish bays, estuaries, and tidal creeks and ponds.

Hooded mergansers are mostly carnivorous, eating fishes, aquatic insects and crustaceans. They sometimes also eat aquatic plants.

These birds breed in February-June. The female selects the nest site, which is usually a cavity in a dead or live tree, or sometimes a man-made nest box. The nest is usually 1,5-5 m above the ground. There the female lays 6-15 glossy white eggs which she incubates alone for 26-41 days. Within 24 h or hatching the female leads the ducklings to water and they remain with their mother until fledging which takes place 70 days later. Each pair raises a single clutch per year.

IUCN status – LC (Least concern)
This species has a very large breeding range and a global population estimated at 270.000-390.000 individuals. The population has undergone a large increase over the last 40 years, equating to a 85,9% increase per decade.

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