Bird of the Week – Red-breasted Merganser


All three species of North American mergansers breed in Alaska, although one rarely makes it past the Panhandle. We’ve looked at the Common Merganser already. Now we’ll have a look at the other two.

Red-breasted Merganser Male, Upper Kuparuk River, North Slope

Red-breasted Merganser Male, Upper Kuparuk River, North Slope

The Red-breasted Merganser is the most northerly breeding of the mergansers, found all the way to the North Slope. It’s also the bird with the second-snappiest hair-do (feather-do?), trailing only next week’s species. This is a diving duck, foraging as deep at 15-20 feet underwater for fish, especially smolts.

Male and Female Red-breasted Merganser, Upper Chatanika River

Male and Female Red-breasted Merganser, Upper Chatanika River

Red-breasted Mergansers don’t breed until they are two years old, and breed late in the season, with the kids not fledging until late September or October. They may be timing things to when fish eggs hatch on the northern streams, so that there are more fish for the kids.

For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.

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