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Hooded Merganser

Lophodytes cucullatus

Length: 18 inches Wingspan: 25 inches Seasonality: Summer / Migrant
ID Keys: Distinctive, with male's white crest, white breast with 2 black bars, and rust-colored sides

Hooded Merganser - Lophodtyes cucullatusAn elegant little Merganser, Hooded Mergansers are the smallest of the Mergansers in the state. The male's crest may be either raised or flattened.  The species declined significantly by the first half of the twentieth century, but as they are cavity nesters that use similar habitats as Wood Ducks, they have significantly benefited from the vast number of Wood Duck boxes erected over the last few decades.

Habitat: Definite preference for wooded areas (forested wetlands, swamps, forested river and lake shores), but that may be due to its need for nest cavities.  They will nest in more open habitats if nest boxes are erected.

Diet: Mostly fish, also mussels, snails, salamanders, and occasionally plant material. 

Behavior: Obtains nearly all its food by diving underwater, propelling itself with its feet in search of prey.

Nesting: May through June

Song: Grunts and chatting

Migration: Not a long-distance migrant, summering in the Northern U.S. and southern Canada, and wintering in the Southern and Western U.S.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Hooded Merganser sightings

Similar Species: Bufflehead

Nestboxes: Will utilize Wood Duck nest boxes.

Conservation Status: Becoming increasingly common as they've adapted to nesting in Wood Duck boxes.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Hooded Merganser

2) WhatBird - Hooded Merganser

3) Audubon Guide - Hooded Merganser

Photo Information: November 9, 2002 -- Lake Yankton, below Gavin's Point Dam -- Terry L. Sohl


Click on the range map for a higher-resolution view
Hooded Merganser - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon migrant in the eastern part of the state, rare in the west.  Local breeder in portions of the east.  Rare in winter.

Additional Hooded Merganser Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Hooded Merganser - Lophodytes cucullatus