The Hooded Merganser is a diving bird of shallow-water ponds, sloughs, lakes and rivers. It is rarely found away from wooded areas, where it nests in natural cavities or nest boxes. The female will "dump" eggs into other female Hooded Merganser nests, resulting in 20 to 25 eggs in some nests. The male has a white crest with black border that can open up like a fan, black back, white below, cinnamon sides. It is the smallest of the North American mergansers. It prefers fresh water near the coast in the winter and in the breeding season it is found on woodland ponds, rivers, or backwaters in small flocks. The adult bird has a long, flat head, with a dark bill. It flies with rapied wingbeats and both sexes show a small white patch on the inner wing.
Size: Length 16-19 inches.
Male: Same size and shape as female, but black back and rust sides, crest "hood" raises to reveal large white patch, long black bill.
Female: Sleek brown and rust bird with a red head. Ragged "hari" on back of head. Long, thin brown bill.
Nest: Tree cavity or old log, lined with a mass of down, 1 brood per year.
Eggs: 10-12; white, unmarked.
Incubation: 32-33 days; female incubates.
Fledging: 71 days; female feed young.
Habitat: Woodland ponds, river or backwaters.
Food: Aquatic invertebrates, small frogs, newts and small fish.
Migration: complete, to Gulf coast and Mexico, non-migrator in central Florida.
Voice: Relatively silent. During display, the male utters a rolling frog-like "crrrooooo". Female merely a short harsh note.