Red-breasted Merganser
Identification Tips
(Credit: U. S. Geological Survey)
General Information
- Large, sleek diving duck
- Long, pointed bill with serrated edges
- Thin, red bill seems evenly tapered throughout length
- Shaggy crest obvious in both sexes
- Red eye
- White secondaries
- Immature similar to adult female

Adult male
- Greenish-black head
- White neck
- Reddish breast with dark streaks, bordered on sides
  by black-and-white patch
- Gray flanks, tail, rump and uppertail coverts
- Black back
- White belly
- White secondary coverts
- Alternate plumage worn from fall through early
- Male in basic eclipse plumage like adult female

Adult female
- Red-brown head, paler on throat, but without well-
  defined chin
- Red-brown head fades evenly to paler breast
- Gray and white breast and belly
- Gray-brown body plumage

Similar species
Adult male in alternate plumage is similar to male Common Merganser but has reddish breast and gray flanks.

Female, immature and eclipse male distinguished from similarly-plumaged Common Mergansers by lack of sharply-defined chin and lack of sharp contrast between reddish head and white breast, and by darker gray plumage, spikier crest, and slimmer bill.

In winter, Red-breasted Mergansers are more likely to be found in saltwater habitats than are Common Mergansers.
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