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Common Merganser - Mergus merganser



 Kingdom: Animalia
 Phylum: Chordata
 Class: Aves
 Order: Anseriformes
 Family: Anatidae
 Genus: Mergus
ICUN Redlist - World Status: Least ConcernLeast Concern


Common Merganser The common merganser is a diving duck that is 22-28 inches in length with a wingspan of 34 inches. It has a long, thin, serrated bill and brown eyes. The male's bill is reddish-orange and the female's bill is orange.

Common MerganserBoth the male and the female have a crest of feathers on their heads. The crest is more visible on the female. The male has a white breast, neck, and sides. He has an iridescent greenish-black head and neck and a black back and tail. The female has a gray body, a reddish-brown head and neck, and a white chin. Both the male and the female have a white patch on their wings that is visible when they are in flight.


mapThe common merganser breeds from Alaska east to Newfoundland and south to California, New Mexico, the Great Lakes region, and New England. It winters from southern Canada south to northern Mexico. It is also found in Europe and Asia.


During the breeding season, the common merganser is found on wooded rivers and lakes. It winters on lakes, rivers, bays, and estuaries.



Common Merganser The common merganser dives for prey like fish, mollusks, and crustaceans. It commonly preys on fish like trout, small salmon, perch, minnows, and eels. The serrated edges of the common merganser's bill are like the teeth of a saw! They help the merganser get a good hold on the fish it catches so the fish can't wiggle away. The common merganser is sometimes called the sawbill!

Life Cycle

Common Merganser Male and female common mergansers form pairs in the late winter or early spring. The female lays 6-12 eggs in a tree cavity lined with down. Common mergansers frequently use woodpecker holes for their nests. The female sometimes makes her nest nest in a rock crevice, a hole in the ground, in a hollow log, or under tree roots. Nests are usually near the water. The female incubates the eggs, which hatch in 28-35 days. The male stays near the nest until incubation begins. The ducklings leave the nest a day or two after hatching and dabble in the water for insects. By the time they are a few weeks old, they begin diving for larger prey.


Common MerganserThe common merganser is a good swimmer and diver, but it is awkward on land. It runs across the water to build up enough speed to take off and fly.

Audio Credit: xeno-canto.org Ruud van Beusekom cc logo