RED-BREASTED MERGANSER – (Mergus serrator)
The Red-breasted Merganser is a diving duck that measures around 60 cm (24 in.) long. 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.
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.
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. They feed mostly on fish and fish eggs, sometimes on crustaceans.
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)
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. 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.