Red-Breasted Merganser

Mergus serrator
Range Map

The Red-Breasted Merganser breeds over much of northern Canada and Eurasia, but prefers shallow coastal saltwater areas in winter.

These birds are fast fliers. Some observers claim their flying speed is up to 100 miles per hour.

Most of our knowledge about the Red-Breasted Merganser’s diet has come from research into their effect on sport and commercial fishing interests. These diving ducks consume small to medium-sized fish, including salmon fry, stickleback, killifishes and many others. Given the opportunity, they will take crustaceans such as crayfish and shrimp too.

Today’s science considers the Red-Breasted Merganser as monotypic (i.e. there are no subspecies). Considering their circumpolar range across the northern hemisphere, I find this interesting.

Most of my encounters with this species have come from South San Diego Bay, but I’ve also enjoyed meeting them on the Colorado River, near Otter Creek near Antimony (Utah), and more recently in coastal Northern California, and in the Canadian Yukon. Once I observed a cooperative inter-species fishing event in Imperial Beach (California). A pair of Snowy Egrets worked the shoreline while a Red-Breasted Merganser worked the shallow water of a channel in the San Diego South Bay. If a fish evaded the merganser, the egrets were there to exploit the opportunity. If the prey feared the egrets, they might get caught by the merganser.

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