Common Name

Scientific Name


Photo by Robert T. Maytum
Photo Courtesy of Robert T. Maytum

The hooded merganser, Lophodytes cucullatus, is a fish-eating duck equipped with a long thin bill that has sharp serrated edges along the sides. Only the heads of the males are adorned with the characteristic fan-shaped crest. Breeding occurs in southeastern Alaska and much of southern Canada, as well as in the northwestern, north-central, and eastern United States. Main wintering areas include the coasts of North America, as well as the eastern and southeastern United States. Hooded mergansers occasionally reside in Utah during the summer, and infrequently migrate through the state in the fall and spring. They prefer forested areas, and usually nest in forested wetland areas.

Hooded mergansers are proficient divers and swimmers, which allows them to quickly seize mobile prey items such as fish, crayfish, and insects. Unlike other ducks, hooded mergansers appear to have special optic properties that allow them excellent underwater vision. Both males and females participate in a courtship display involving elaborate movements of the head. A monogamous pair bond is formed, and the female selects a nesting cavity, usually in a dead tree. The female builds the nest using material found in the cavity. She then plucks her own down to line the cavity. The female incubates her six to twelve spherical eggs for about one month; the male abandons the female shortly after she begins incubating the eggs. Just 24 hours after hatching, the ducklings will leap from the nest and begin feeding themselves. The female continues to care for the young for several weeks. The young are able to fly after about 70 days.


  • Dugger, D. B., K. M. Dugger, and L. H. Fredickson. 1994. Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus). Birds of North America 98.

  • Hayward, C. L., Cottam, C., Woodbury, A. M., and H. H. Frost. 1976. Birds of Utah. In Great Basin Naturalist Memoirs, No. 1 (Wood, S. L. and K. T. Harper, eds.). Brigham Young University, Provo, UT.

  • Peterson, R. T. 1966. A field guide to western birds, second edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, MA.