Red-breasted merganser

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Red-breasted merganser
Temporal range: Pleistocene–present
Mergus serrator -New Jersey -USA -winter-8.jpg
Male in winter at New Jersey, United States
Red-breasted merganser female in CP (40744).jpg
Female, New York, United States
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Genus: Mergus
M. serrator
Binomial name
Mergus serrator
MergusSerratorIUCN2018 2.png
Red-breasted merganser range
  • Merganser serrator (Linnaeus, 1758)

The red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator) is a diving duck, one of the sawbills. The genus name is a Latin word used by Pliny and other Roman authors to refer to an unspecified waterbird, and serrator is a sawyer from Latin serra, "saw".[2] The red-breasted merganser was one of the many bird species originally described by Carl Linnaeus in his landmark 1758 10th edition of Systema Naturae, where it was given the binomial name Mergus serrator.[3]

Juvenile, Florida
Egg, Collection Museum Wiesbaden
Three red-breasted mergansers at the rocks in Sipoo, Finland


The adult red-breasted merganser is 51–62 cm (20–24 in) long with a 70–86 cm (28–34 in) wingspan.[4] The red-breasted merganser weight ranges from 28.2 to 47.6 oz (800 to 1,350 g).[5]

It has a spiky crest and long thin red bill with serrated edges. The male has a dark head with a green sheen, a white neck with a rusty breast, a black back, and white underparts. Adult females have a rusty head and a grayish body. Juveniles look similar to females, but lack the white collar and have smaller white wing patches.


The call of the female is a rasping prrak prrak, while the male gives a feeble hiccup-and-sneeze display call.


Food and feeding[edit]

Red-breasted mergansers dive and swim underwater. They mainly eat small fish, but also aquatic insects, crustaceans, and frogs.


Its breeding habitat is freshwater lakes and rivers across northern North America, Greenland, Europe, and the Palearctic. It nests in sheltered locations on the ground near water. It is migratory and many northern breeders winter in coastal waters further south.

Speed record[edit]

The fastest duck ever recorded was a red-breasted merganser that attained a top airspeed of 100 mph while being pursued by an airplane. This eclipsed the previous speed record held by a canvasback clocked at 72 mph.[6]


The red-breasted merganser is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2018). "Mergus serrator". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2018: e.T22680485A132053220. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-2.RLTS.T22680485A132053220.en. Retrieved 13 November 2021.
  2. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 251, 354. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  3. ^ Linnaeus, Carl (1758). Systema Naturae per Regna Tria Naturae, Secundum Classes, Ordines, Genera, Species, cum Characteribus, Differentiis, Synonymis, Locis (in Latin). Vol. Vol. I (10th revised ed.). Holmiae: (Laurentii Salvii). p. 129 – via The Internet Archive. {{cite book}}: |volume= has extra text (help)
  4. ^ Jonsson, Lars (1992). Birds of Europe with North Africa and the Middle East. Princeton University Press. p. 118. ISBN 0-691-03326-9.
  5. ^ "Red-breasted Merganser Identification, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology". Retrieved 2020-09-26.
  6. ^ "The Need for Speed". Ducks Unlimited. 7 May 2007. Archived from the original on 9 September 2015. Retrieved 14 December 2015.

External links[edit]