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Red-breasted Merganser


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.

At a GlanceHelp

Both Sexes
20.1–25.2 in
51–64 cm
26–29.1 in
66–74 cm
28.2–47.6 oz
800–1350 g
Other Names
  • Harle huppé (French)
  • Mergo copetón (Spanish)

Cool Facts

  • The Red-breasted Merganser breeds farther north and winters farther south than the other American mergansers.
  • The oldest recorded Red-breasted Merganser was a female, and at least 9 years, 6 months old when she was shot in Alaska, the same state where she had been banded.





Mostly fish; also crustaceans, insects, and tadpoles.


Nesting Facts
Egg Description
Condition at Hatching
Covered with down, eyes open. Leave nest within one or two days after hatching.
Nest Description

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

Nest Placement



Surface Dive

Dives underwater to catch prey.


status via IUCN

Least Concern

There 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.


Range Map Help

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

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What to Watch For: Duck Courtship [video], All About Birds blog, January 20, 2015.



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