• Skip to Content
  • Skip to Main Navigation
  • Skip to Local Navigation
  • Skip to Search
  • Skip to Sitemap
  • Skip to Footer
Help develop a Bird ID tool!

Red-breasted Merganser

Mergus serrator ORDER: ANSERIFORMES FAMILY: ANATIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A large diving duck with a long thin bill, the Red-breasted Merganser is found in large lakes, rivers and the ocean. It prefers salt water more than the other two species of merganser.

Be a Better Birder Tutorial 3
Learn About Celebrate Urban Birds!

Appearance

Ducks
Ducks
Typical Voice

Adult Description

  • Large, thin diving duck.
  • Long, thin, orange to red-orange bill.
  • Shaggy crest on back of head.
  • White patches in wing visible in flight.
  • Male with gray sides, dark reddish chest, white neck, and iridescent green head.

Male Description

Breeding (Alternate) Plumage: Head iridescent greenish black. Neck white. Chest deep rusty speckled with black. Back dark with long white patch along wings. Tail gray. Outer part of wings black. Bill scarlet-orange. Eyes red.
Nonbreeding (Basic) Plumage: Head rusty brown with long, ragged double crest. Chin pale or gray. Breast, back, wings and tail slaty gray. Belly and flanks white. Bill scarlet-orange. White patch in wing visible in flight. Like female, except has less white on chin, darker back, and wing with larger white patch.

Female Description

Head rusty brown with long, ragged, double crest. Chin dark or pale, gradually merging with chest color. Breast, back, wings and tail slaty gray. Belly and flanks white. Bill scarlet-orange. White patch in wing visible in flight.

Immature Description

Immature resembles adult female.

Range Map Help

Red-breasted Merganser Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Breeding male

    Red-breasted Merganser

    Breeding male
    • © Steve Zamek, San Francisco, California, February 2012
  • Adult male

    Red-breasted Merganser

    Adult male
    • © mg2green, Chicago, Illinois, February 2011
  • Adult female

    Red-breasted Merganser

    Adult female
  • Female

    Red-breasted Merganser

    Female
  • Female/Immature male

    Red-breasted Merganser

    Female/Immature male
  • Adult female

    Red-breasted Merganser

    Adult female
  • Adult male

    Red-breasted Merganser

    Adult male

Similar Species

  • Common Merganser male has sleek crest, white chest and sides, and dark eyes. Female is cleaner looking, with brighter brown head that fades abruptly into whitish breast, has a distinct white chin, and has a shorter crest.
  • Winter loons can look similar, but generally have thicker bills, more white in face, and lack shaggy crest.