Red-breasted Merganser

Bailee Daniels

The Red-breasted Merganser


Latin: Mergus serrator
Average length: Male 17.1 in, Female 16.3 in.
Average weight: Male 1.56 lbs, Female 1.52 lbs

Wingspan: 70 – 86 g

-The Red-breasted merganser is the most widespread of the variety of mergansers, these are a group of fish-eating ducks also known as saw-bills due to their long, narrow, serrated beaks that they possess. These slender seabirds are also known for their marked sexual dimorphism,with the more elaborately colored male decorated with glossy sheens of green and blue to attract the somewhat duller female during their breeding season. The mergansers are strong fliers and among the fastest of ducks, capable of achieving speeds of up to 80 miles per hour. When taking off from the water’s surface, they use rapid-wing beats and thrusts of the webbed feet to take to the air, and once airborne, typically fly low and fast.

The start of a Red-breasted Merganser

The Male Red-breasted merganser

This is the male merganser and between the male and female there is a very distinctive color to them. The male shows a striking, wide band of white that extends almost the full length of the body and a dark band across its chest. The dark green head appears black at a distance and is tufted at the back, this is also different from the common merganser ducks. Also notice the striking red eye that these magnificent birds have. These type of ducks also have an aggressive look to them.

The Female Red-breasted merganser

The female Red-breasted merganser has a very distinctive appearance to her as well. merganser has a dusky gray back enlivened occasionally by a small white patch in front of the tail. The female of this species also resemble the common merganser in that regard. They have light brown heads and lightly mottled gray backs and sides. This species can be distinguished by noting that the white throat merge imperceptibly with brown head. Also the female also has lighter red eyes and feet than the male.

The Breeding Process and Cycle


The breeding area of the red-breasted merganser generally ranges far north and not as far south as other megansers. The main region is in southeastern and southern Canada. Although red-breasted mergansers breed over most of Alaska, including the Aleutian Islands, they are most in good quantity on areas by the Bering Sea. They nest east through the tundra of Labrador and northern Quebec to central Baffin Island. They also are commonly seen in the tundra along the southern and west coasts of Hudson Bay, north to Eskimo Point and Coronation Gulf, then south through the tundra and most of the open boreal forests of the Northwest and Yukon territories. They have been found nesting in marshes, on rocky islets, on vegetated islands in large lakes, in bank recesses and under piles of driftwood. North American nests contain an average of 5-11 eggs. Not all of these ducks make it though.


A good bit of the population of the red-breasted merganser that breed in the inner part of North America migrate toward the Atlantic or Pacific coasts before reaching their wintering destinations, though a small portion of the birds migrate into the Great Lakes. Some stay there for winter, but many continue further south to the winter destinations along the Gulf Coast and probably along the mid-Atlantic coast. A few thousand have been known to fly south from Canada across the Great Plains to winter along the Texas coast. Red-breasted mergansers typically migrate in small flocks of 5 to 15, with coastal flights occurring during the day and any other flights at night.