ragged-crested Red-breasted Merganser winters in Washington but
breeds farther to the north. The adult male in breeding plumage
has a reddish-brown mottled breast, white neck collar, green
head, and red eyes. The serrate orange bill is very thin. The
back is black and white, and the flanks are gray. The female
has an overall gray body, reddish-brown head, and reddish eyes.
There is no obvious white chin-patch as in the female Common
Merganser. The juvenile is similar to the female but has a white
bar across its face. Non-breeding adult males appear similar
to females as well.
habitat is in the tundra and boreal-forest zones. Breeding occurs
on fresh, brackish, and saltwater wetlands and in sheltered bays.
During migration and in winter, Red-breasted Mergansers occur
mostly on salt water, in coastal bays, estuaries, and other protected
Mergansers are typically found in small flocks, rather than huge
rafts. They forage by diving and swimming under water, sometimes
in cooperative groups, working schools of fish into shallow water.
the young eat mostly aquatic insects, adults primarily eat fish.
Crustaceans and other aquatic creatures are also eaten.
first breed at the age of two years. Pairs generally form in
late winter and during spring migration, although some evidence
of pairing may be evident in the late fall. Breeding is late
in the season, and often the young do not fledge until September.
The nest is located in a sheltered spot on the ground, usually
near water. It is a simple depression lined with vegetation and
down. The female lays 7 to 10 eggs, and sometimes lays eggs in
the nests of other females. Males usually leave when incubation
begins. Incubation is by the female alone and lasts for 28 to
35 days. Within a day or so of hatching, the young follow the
female to water where they feed themselves. Often, in areas of
high-density nesting, two or more broods will join and form a
crèche, with one or more females tending them. Within
a few weeks, the females typically abandon the young, who cannot
fly until they are about two months old.
Mergansers usually migrate in pairs or small flocks. Males leave
the breeding grounds in mid-summer on their molt migration, but
the destinations are not known. Spring migration begins in March
and peaks in April, continuing into May. Birds are typically
on the breeding grounds by mid- to late May. In the fall, birds
start arriving in September, although most birds arrive on the
wintering grounds in late November.
populations in the North Pacific seem to have increased over
the last ten years. Hunting is not a major source of mortality,
but a number have been shot illegally due to their suspected
impact on salmon and other commercial fish. The extent of their
impact is not known, but it is not likely that they are causing
significant salmon mortality.