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Hooded Merganser, female with chicks
Hooded Merganser
Above © Julia Flanagan; Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax, Virginia; July, 2009
Lower left © John White

Hooded Merganser
Lophodytes cucullatus

The Hooded Merganser  is a small duck that has a crest at the back of the head which can be expanded or contracted. 

The crest of adult male has a large white patch.   The male duck has a black head and reddish brown sides. The adult female has a reddish crest, with much of the rest of the head and body a greyish-brown. The Hooded Merganser has a saw bill but is not classified as a typical merganser.

Their breeding habitat is swamps and wooded ponds on the northern half of the United States or southern Canada. They prefer to nest in tree cavities near water but will use Wood Duck nesting boxes if available and unoccupied. They form pairs in early winter.

Hooded Mergansers are short distance migrants and winter in the United States wherever winter temperatures allow for ice free conditions on ponds, lakes and rivers.

These ducks feed by diving and swimming under water to collect small fish, crustaceans and aquatic insects.