Wildlife and Invasive Species Education (WISE) Species Profile: Hooded Merganser

Common Name: Hooded Merganser

Status: Native Species

Scientific Name: Lophodytes cucullatus

Occurrence: Winter Resident

Identification: Both the male and female species can be identified separately based on their own unique coloration, known as sexual dimorphism. Both males and females average 15 to 19″ in length and have a wingspan of up to 26″. Male Hooded Mergansers have black feathers on the upper portion of their body, white breasts, and chestnut feathers adorning their flanks. The head has a large white patch, and when the “hood” is raised. When this happens, the black and white feathers on the raised hood, make identification very easy, not mentioning impressive. The female is less colorful, but has a beautiful light brown body and cinnamon colored crest, which also raised into a “hood”.

Description: The Hooded Merganser is a striking water duck that winters in the small lakes and ponds of Central Florida. In their breeding range, they are cavity nesters. Females dictate what is a good nest and then start building. She may or may not use the same site the following year. Nesting material may contain vegetation and some of the females own down. Hooded Mergansers lay between 7 to 13 eggs. Young will leave the nest after 24 hours of hatching and fledge in about 70 days. The raised crest may not always be present, which may result in a misidentification. During courtship, the raised crests or hoods, will be in full display. They will also raise their crests when agitated. Like the American Coot, Hooded Merganser will run in top of the water before getting airborne.

Diet: Hooded Mergansers are unique among ducks because they specifically specialize in hunting and eating fish. They dive into the water, capturing fish and other prey. This hunting style gains more success because of the Hooded Merganser ability to see underwater. Other prey include crayfish, tadpoles, and even some vegetation. Their specialized serrated bill, makes it perfect for catching and holding onto a fish.

Interesting Facts:

  • Hooded Merganser exhibit “Brood Parasitism”. This is when females lay eggs in other females nests.
  • During the late 20th century, Hooded Merganser populations severely decreased due to hunting.
  • Mergansers are legal to hunt in Florida with the appropriate hunting permit and listed season dates, of which only two of the five daily bag limit may be Hooded Mergansers.

Cover Photo Credit: Jim E. Davis

References: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Hooded_Merganser/overview






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Posted: December 31, 2021

Category: Natural Resources, UF/IFAS, UF/IFAS Extension, Wildlife

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