Red-breasted Merganser Life History


Food FishMostly fish; also crustaceans, insects, and tadpoles.Back to top


Nest Placement

Nest Ground

Nest Description

Depression in ground, lined with down. Often placed under boulder or in dense shrubs.

Nesting Facts
Egg Description:Olive-buff.
Condition at Hatching:Covered with down, eyes open. Leave nest within one or two days after hatching.
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Behavior Surface DiveDives underwater to catch prey.Back to top


Conservation Low ConcernThere is little significant information on Red-breasted Merganser population trends and numbers. Populations appear to have declined between 1966 and 2014, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. A 2015 study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated the population of all three merganser species together to be around 400,000. Red-breasted Merganser is not on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List. These birds may be susceptible to pesticides, toxic metals, and acid rain that degrade their habit, reduce prey and thin eggshells. Though they are not prized as a game bird, some Red-breasted Mergansers are shot every year either for sport or by mistake (The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates some 35,000 Common and Red-breasted Mergansers are shot by hunters annually). At times they have been targeted for eradication because they were thought to threaten salmon and trout stocks.Back to top


Craik, Shawn, John Pearce and Rodger D. Titman. 2015. Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

North American Bird Conservation Initiative. 2014. The State of the Birds 2014 Report. US Department of Interior, Washington, DC, USA.

Sauer, J. R., J. E. Hines, J. E. Fallon, K. L. Pardieck, Jr. Ziolkowski, D. J. and W. A. Link. The North American Breeding Bird Survey, results and analysis 1966-2013 (Version 1.30.15). USGS Patuxtent Wildlife Research Center 2014b. Available from

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, USA.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 2015. Waterfowl population status, 2015. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior.

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