British Wildlife Wiki
Hooded Merganser

Male Hooded Merganser -

The Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) is an American species, which is sometimes blown over by strong winds. Sometimes escaped birds will settle in Britain, though many sightings are thought to be genuine.

The males are very distinctive when in breeding plumage, as have various white, black and brown patches, with an impressive crest.

Females and males in eclipse plumage are much duller, but still hold the crest, just without the white patch.

A few of these ducks have occurred as vagrants to Europe, however, this attractive species is so common in captivity that most birds seen in the wild in Europe are simply escapees.

These ducks feed by diving and swimming under water to collect small fish, crustaceans and aquatic insects. They find their prey underwater by sight.


The Hooded Merganser is a sexually dimorphic species. The female has a brown body, with a white underside and a light brown crest extending from the back of the head. The male has a similar appearance during nonbreeding season (although his eyes are yellow while the female's are brown). During breeding season, however, the male's plumage changes color: The head, back and neck become black, with white stripes near the chest and tail, and the bird develops a white crest on the back of the head that can be extended to attract mates.

First-winter birds differ from adult females, in having a grey-brown neck and upperparts (black on adult females), and narrower white tertial-edges than adults; all females are dark-eyed whereas in first-winter males, a pale eye is acquired during the winter.


Found in North America and Canada, this species inhabits tundra, lakes, and coastal habitats.

Vagrancy to Europe[]

Although Hooded Merganser is a common species in captivity in Europe, and most records in the wild are regarded as escapes, a small number of birds have been regarded as genuine wild vagrants. Britain's current first accepted record is a bird which was seen on North Uist in October 2000.