Hooded Merganser Duck

Lophodytes cucullatus


The Hooded Merganser is a small to medium sized duck with a long bill and a fluffy crest of feathers on the top of its head. The male has a black and white patterned body with brown wings. His crest contains a large white patch. The female Hooded Merganser has an overall drab brown color with a white belly.


A Hooded Merganser weighs about 1.5 pounds and is 16-19 inches in length with a 26 inch wingspan.


  • One reason ducks are able to stay afloat in the water is because of air sacs inside their bodies that increase their buoyancy.
  • Ducks’ feathers trap air in between them, which is another adaptation that helps them to float. Their feathers are also covered with a waterproof substance that keeps the ducks warm and dry.
  • Ducks’ webbed feet allow them to maneuver easily in the water.
  • Ducks are excellent fliers due to their streamlined bodies and powerful wings. Ducks and other birds also have hollow bones that weigh much less than the solid bones of mammals. This reduces their overall body weight and makes them light enough to fly.
  • Ducks do not have teeth, but they do have bumpy edges on their bills that help them to filter food out of the water. The bill of the Hooded Merganser is slender and pointed to help it catch the fish that make up a large part of its diet. Food is then swallowed whole and ground up in the gizzard, a part of the stomach that contains small rocks for breaking down food. The Hooded Merganser has a very strong gizzard to help it grind the exoskeletons of the shellfish it consumes.
  • The crest of the male Hooded Merganser can be opened and closed like a fan during breeding displays.


In the wild, Hooded Mergansers dive under the water to eat small fish, frogs, newts, tadpoles, and insects. At Cosley Zoo, these ducks are fed a commercial waterfowl diet.


Hooded Mergansers can begin reproducing when they are 2 years of age. They form pairs in early winter and breed between March and May. Mergansers prefer to nest in tree cavities, and often look for nests that have been built and abandoned by another bird. The female lays 7-15 eggs, which she incubates for one month. The day after the ducklings hatch, they leave the nest and the female looks over them for 8-10 weeks until they learn to fly.

Shelter and space needs:

Hooded Mergansers are usually found in wooded ponds, lakes, and rivers surrounded by woodlands. They prefer bodies of water that are calm and clear so they can see their food more easily.

Life expectancy:

Uncertain for this breed. In general, ducks live an average of 2 years in the wild and can live over 10 years in captivity.

Relationship with man:

The Hooded Merganser is a distinctive and beautiful duck which bird watchers enjoy viewing. Occasionally, Hooded Mergansers are hunted for sport. These ducks also help to control populations of fish and amphibians. Many scientific studies involve Hooded Mergansers because they will lay eggs in artificial nest boxes.

Fun Facts

  • The Hooded Merganser is also known as the “fish duck” because of the large amounts of fish it consumes.
  • The Hooded Merganser does not quack as some other ducks do, but instead vocalizes in hoarse grunts and chatters.
  • The water in the Cosley Zoo duck pond often looks green, but that’s not because it’s dirty! The green dye that we put in the pond helps to block sunlight, which keeps algae from overgrowing.
  • A group of ducks is called a brace.


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