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Common Merganser

Mergus merganser

Length: 25 inches Wingspan: 35 inches Seasonality: Migrant / Winter
ID Keys: White body with dark blackish-green head, black back.  Female gray with rusty head.

Common Merganser - Mergus merganserCommon Mergansers are a common migrant in South Dakota, and a common winter resident along larger river systems in the state.  An expert diving fish-eater, they often forage in small groups, although large flocks may form in winter below large Missouri River reservoirs in the state.  The species is also found in Europe, where it is called a "Goosander".

Habitat: Strongly prefers freshwater, where it can be found on a variety of open water habitats. 

Diet: Mostly fish.  Also crustaceans, amphibians, aquatic insects, and occasionally aquatic plants. 

Behavior: Forages by diving below the water's surface and swimming underwater, propelled by its feet.  They can sometimes be seen swimming on the surface, peering underwater with their heads partially submerged, and then diving after prey underwater when it is spotted.

Nesting: Rare breeder in South Dakota

Song:  Common Merganser Call

Migration: Summers in Canada and extreme northern U.S., winters throughout much of the United States interior, and sometimes on protected bays along coastlines.

Interactive eBird Map: Click here to access an interactive eBird map of Common Merganser sightings

Similar Species: Red-Breasted Merganser

Conservation Status: Numbers appear to be stable throughout most of their North American range.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Common Merganser

2) Audubon Guide - Common Merganser

3) Common Merganser

Photo Information: May 2014 - Kenai River in Alaska - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Common Merganser photos.


Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Common Merganser - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common migrant throughout the state.  Common winter resident along the Missouri River, uncommon elsewhere where open water is available.  There have been some recorded instances of breeding in the Black Hills.

Additional Common Merganser Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
Common Merganser - Mergus merganserCommon Merganser - Mergus merganserCommon Merganser - Mergus merganserCommon Merganser - Mergus merganser