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What is a Hooded Merganser (lophodytes cucullatus)

Hooded Merganser (lophodytes cucullatus)Hooded Merganser


Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) are sexually dimorphic ducks, which means males and females have distinct differences in their physical appearance. This “diving duck” hunts underwater navigating by sight.

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Hooded Merganser (lophodytes cucullatus)


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Anseriformes
  • Family: Anatidae
  • Genus: Lophodytes Reichenbach, 1853 Species: L. cucullatus

Size and Body Description

Male Hooded Merganser

The males have a black head and a black back with a white crest that can be raised and lowered. The breast is white with two black “Zebra” bars and their flanks are a rusty brown color.

Female Hooded Merganser

Females are rusty brown overall with some white in the wings and a shaggy crest.

Hooded Merganser Size

  • Length: 15.8″ – 19.3″
  • Weight: 16.0 – 31.0 ounces
  • Wingspan: 23.6″ – 26.0″ 

Hooded Merganser (lophodytes cucullatus)


One source stated that their diet varies depending on location and circumstances but the diet consists of fish (44% – 81%), aquatic insects (13% – 20%), and other aquatic invertebrates, e.g., crabs and crayfish (22% – 50%).

Habitat and Range

You will find Hooded Mergansers in freshwater ponds, brackish ponds, marshes, and swamps where their food sources live. They prefer fresh water but can be found on brackish bodies of water.

In Nevada, they can be seen Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, the Overton Wildlife Management Area, and the Pahranagat Valley.

Hooded Merganser (lophodytes cucullatus)


The breeding period for Hooded Mergansers varies depending on the region and ranges from the end of February through the end of June.

The male and female Hooded Mergansers are monogamous pairs and will stay together until the female has selected her nesting cavity and has laid her clutch. The female Hooded Merganser lays a clutch of 7 – 15 eggs and the female starts the incubation period once the last egg has been laid, which is called synchronous hatching. Once the incubation period starts, the male leaves the female. The incubation period last for 26 to 41 days and averages at 33 days.

The nests are normally made in cavities of dead trees and prefer cavities that are 4′ – 15′ above ground. (I have found references that they prefer heights of 10′ – 50′.) The female will make the nest from the materials within the cavity and then line with down. They will seek out existing nests of other Hooded Mergansers and cavity-nesting ducks, this is called brood parasitism and is seen often with other waterfowl.

During the incubation period, the female may lose 8% -16% of her body weight.

The hatchlings are the same size.

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Hooded Merganser (lophodytes cucullatus)