The adult Red-breasted Merganser is 51-62 cm (20-24 in) long with a 70-86 cm (28-34 in) wingspan. 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 greyish body. The juvenile is like the female, but lacks the white collar and has a smaller white wing patch.

Habitat and Distribution

Its breeding habitat is freshwater lakes and rivers across northern North America, Greenland, Europe, and Asia. It is migratory and many northern breeders winter in coastal waters further south.


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


It nests in sheltered locations on the ground near water.

Calls and Songs

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