Red-breasted Merganser
Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network

Red-breasted Merganser

Large diving ducks 19” to 26” long with an average wingspan of 26”. Both sexes have a red bill and head plumage that sweeps back to form a crest. Drakes have a dark green head, a white neck “collar,” an orange-brown breast and gray side plumage with white wing patches. Hens have a rust-colored head and gray body plumage.


Open water, where these birds may “raft up” in large flocks in places where the fish they feed upon are concentrated.


Red-breasted mergansers of the Atlantic Flyway breed in northeastern Canada and the Great Lakes region, migrating in autumn to wintering grounds in the Bay and points south.




Usually silent; various croaking and grunting notes during courtship. Listen to a sample (Requires RealPlayer)

Cool Facts:

This species is the most common merganser on the Bay during the winter. Its long, slender bill has a serrated rim that enables the red-breasted merganser to maintain a firm grasp on the fish it captures.

The decoy pictured is from the collection of the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art and was photographed by Middleton Evans. Waterfowl sounds are courtesy of the Macaulay Lab of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network - Comments or Questions: Call: 1-800-YOUR-BAY