Birda Logo
A photo of a Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus), male
Hooded Merganser, Male

Hooded Merganser

Lophodytes cucullatus

The Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) is a small, fish-eating duck with a remarkable appearance. It is the only extant species in the genus Lophodytes. Both sexes boast crests that can be raised or lowered, but it is the male's breeding plumage that is particularly striking with its bold patterns and colors. Despite having a sawbill, it is not classified as a typical merganser. This species is the second-smallest merganser, with only the smew being smaller, and is unique in being native solely to North America.

Identification Tips

Adult females display a greyish-brown body with a narrow white patch over the lower breast and belly, and a light reddish-brown crest. Nonbreeding males resemble females but have yellow eyes compared to the female's brown. Breeding males have mainly black dorsal areas with white markings and a black head, neck, and breast adorned with large white patches on the crest. Their lower flanks are a rich reddish-brown, and the breast and undersides are predominantly white. Both sexes have narrow white stripes along their tertial wing feathers, visible as longitudinal white stripes along the lower back when at rest.


Hooded Mergansers have a preference for small bodies of water like ponds and small estuaries with abundant emergent aquatic vegetation. They also inhabit larger wetlands, impoundments, flooded timber, and rivers, and can be found on both fresh and brackish water bodies.


This species is a short-distance migrant, wintering in the United States where conditions allow for ice-free waters. They have two major year-round ranges: one in the eastern United States and a smaller one from Washington state to northern Idaho. They also breed in regions from Missouri to southern Canada and from Nova Scotia to eastern North Dakota and Saskatchewan.


Hooded Mergansers form monogamous pairs until the female has selected a nesting cavity and laid her clutch. The male then departs, leaving the female to incubate and care for the brood. They are cavity nesters, often using cavities in dead trees or artificial nest boxes.


Breeding occurs from the end of February to the end of June, depending on the region. Females lay a clutch of 7-15 eggs and begin incubation with the last egg, leading to synchronous hatching. Hatchlings are precocial and leave the nest within 24 hours, yet stay with the female for warmth and protection.

Diet and Feeding

The Hooded Merganser is a diving predator that primarily feeds on fish, making up 44 to 81% of its diet. It also consumes aquatic insects and other invertebrates like crabs and crayfish.

Conservation Status

The Hooded Merganser is currently listed as Least Concern. Past population declines have been linked to large-scale deforestation, but recent timber management is believed to be increasing suitable habitat. They are susceptible to pollution, which can either directly poison them or reduce their prey populations.

App logo
Birda is a birdwatching app and community aimed at curious people who want to deepen their connection with nature.

Hooded Merganser Fun Facts

Did you know?
Hooded Merganser are known to be brood parasites, laying their eggs in other species nests.

Hooded Mergansers on Birda


More Ducks, Geese, Swans

A photo of a Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata) , male

Mandarin Duck

Aix galericulata
Birda Logo

Your birdwatching journey like never before

Connect with nature in minutes
Take a walk, look out of the window and log the birds that you see. Feel good about those little connections to nature.
Discover the joy of birding
Find new birding spots, see more birds, share and celebrate with a like-minded community of nature lovers.
Play your part in saving nature
Logging your birding sightings and sessions turns into positive action for our planet. Every sighting counts.

Birda Blog

What Our Birders Say
Terrific App for Birders
Downloaded Birda around the time my interest in birding was sparked, and it has been a terrific app to help me (1) share my experience, (2) document my sightings, and (3) learn more about birds in general. That said, I also believe Birda is a fantastic app for birders of all experience levels. Great community!
David C
Very knowledgeable group
Nice friendly birding community. Very knowledgeable group with a willingness to help.
Amylia S
Best app for any birding person!
I love this app!! I am so addicted to it when I saw it had 3 star review I was so sad! The app is awesome!! The best app for any birding person! ❤️
Makes you want to spot birds more
I think this app is fun. It makes you want to spot birds more so I guess in a way it encourages you to get out and about instead of sitting in front of the TV.
The best bird logging app
Birda is honestly the best bird logging app I have seen. I love all the features it has from being able to do a session and log all the birds you see in one sitting, to being able to connect with other birders from all over the globe!
Unbridled Discoveries
Great app for bird lovers
I love this app! It’s a wonderful way to track birding sessions, and also connect you with fellow birders. I also really like the unidentified bird section, it’s a great community tool to help figure out what a never-before-seen bird is!
A Friendly Place
I love using the bird app, I have a pretty good knowledge of birds. But I do have some gaps in it, so it’s nice to have a safe space to check on a sighting to confirm the species. It’s really enjoyable and I love the badges you can collect. It’s like a real life Pokémon go.
Erna M
I really like Birda
I really like Birda. I also use other birding apps and have Birda with E-bird going at the same time.
Fantastic app - Love it!
Love this app and have used it almost daily. Lots of species information and easy to use. Love seeing birds spotted by other users in the UK and worldwide.
Bryan C
Clean and easy to use
Really enjoying this app, it's clean and easy to use. I love the ease of being able to add those one-off birds without starting a whole checklist. I also like the social aspect, like the parts of my Facebook I like, without the ads and junk, just birds. Can't wait to see it become more populated.
As featured in
Connect with nature,
Find your flock
Download Birda - QR Code
© 2024 All rights reserved