Red-breasted Merganser

Mergus serrator

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The red-breasted Merganser is slightly smaller than the common merganser or goosander (Mergus merganser) and slightly larger than the smew (Mergellus albellus). The splendid plumage of the male is striking: it sports a shaggy-looking, two-part feather bonnet on its shimmering black-green head. Its plumage is whitish with conspicuous black dorsal sections, a white neck ring and a reddish to rufous streaked breast. The female is more plainly coloured: ash-grey with a rufous neck and head. Both sexes have similar plumage. The bill is narrow, reddish-orange and curved upwards slightly. It has small horned teeth. Red-breasted mergansers live in coastal areas, islands, lakes and riverbanks close to nature in the boreal zone. Their breeding grounds are bays or the inland taiga and tundra of northern Europe and Russia. In Germany, the red-breasted merganser is a resident and migratory bird, as well as a winter visitor and breeds mainly on the Baltic and North Frisian coasts, the Halligen and islands. During the monogamous seasonal marriage, 6 to 12 plain, yellowish eggs are incubated by the female in - as a rule - a ground nest hidden in dense vegetation. The chicks hatch after 23 to 28 days, become independent after about 50 days and fledge after about 65 days. Their diet mainly consists of small fish, crustaceans and molluscs. Mergansers often hunt in a flock and catch their prey while diving.

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