Common Name

Scientific Name

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

The common merganser, Mergus merganser, breeds in the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere, wintering south to Mexico, Turkey, and southern China. In Utah, this bird is common during migration, uncommon during winter, and rare during summer, and is known to have nested at a few scattered locations in the state. Its breeding habitat is lakes and rivers, often in mountainous areas; during migration and winter, it uses large lakes and rivers and occasionally coastal bays. Its diet consists mainly of fishes, although it consumes some aquatic invertebrates, especially when food is scarce.

Typically the nest is in a cavity in a deciduous tree, sometimes as much as fifty feet above the ground. However, nests may also be in cavities in earthen banks or in a rock crevice, under boulders, shrubs, or root hollows. Six to thirteen eggs are incubated by the female for 28 to 35 days. The young birds are tended by the female and do not become independent for another 65 to 85 days.


  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • Peterson, R. T., and V. M. Peterson. 1990. A field guide to western birds, 3rd ed. Houghton Mifflin, Boston. 432 pp.