RED-BREASTED MERGANSER(Mergus serrator) – (See images below)
DESCRIPTION: The Red-breasted Merganser is a diving duck . In addition to the reddish-brown streaked breast in the drake, the red color is also found in its bill, eyes and legs. The head is dark green with a tuft. There is a large white neckband, and another white band than runs along the body. The first section of the wings is also white. The back is black, and the sides are grey. Under parts are white. Adult females and non-breeding males have a brown head and a greyish body. The bill and legs are red-orange. This duck measures around 60 cm (24 inches) long.
NAME: The name ‘Merganser’ is the contraction of ‘mergus’, which refers to an unspecified water bird, and ‘anser’, which means ‘goose’. The Latin name ‘Serrator’ refers to the bird’s bill serrated edges, which help them hold their slippery fish prey.
HABITAT: Boreal forest wetlands, coastal areas.
DIET: Mostly fish and fish eggs, sometimes crustaceans.
NESTING: This species of merganser will nest on the ground as opposed to other merganser species, which nest in cavities. The nest is placed in a sheltered location in a marsh or on a rocky shore, or on an islet. The number of eggs laid can vary from three to a dozen, and they are dark green. They are incubated by the female. The ducklings can feed themselves not long after hatching.
DISTRIBUTION:  This duck species breeds across most of Canada except for the south west, Alaska, northern Europe and Asia. It is a permanent resident in Iceland and the UK, and migrates along the coasts of Canada, the USA, Europe, China and Japan for the winter. Some vagrants have been able to reach Hawaii. (See note below on bird vagrancy.)
Distribution map:
ON PEI: The red-breasted merganser breeds on PEI, and is a year-round resident. It is fairly common to very common, depending on the seasons and the years.

CONSERVATION: The population of this merganser appears stable and the species is currently not at risk.
NOTES: Air Speed Record: a red-breasted merganser broke the speed record for a flying bird while being pursued by an airplane, at 100 mph. The previous record was apparently 72 mph for a Canvasback. (Ducks Unlimited, ‘The Need for Speed’, 2007)
Vagrancy: In biology this means an animal going way outside its normal range. For birds, this can happen when there are storms and they get blown off course. On other times, the bird simply wanders in a different direction than usual. Here’s an article about vagrancy in birds.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser
REFERENCES: (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas)

Red-breasted Merganser, drake – Keyport, NJ – Jan. 31, 2009 – Peter Massas
Red-breasted merganser drake, Keyport,
NJ, by Peter Massas
Red-breasted Merganser, female – Ottawa, ON – Oct. 22, 2014 – D. Gordon E. Robertson
Red-breasted merganser female, ON
by D. Gordon E. Robertson
Red-breasted Merganser, juvenile – Florida – Mar. 9, 2011 – D. Gordon E. Robertson
Red-breasted merganser juvenile, FL
by D. Gordon E. Robertson