Merganser serrator

Red -breasted Merganser.

Merganser serrator.

The red-breasted merganser, which is, like the goosander, found all round the world in the Northern Hemisphere, is chiefly a salt-water bird when it leaves its breeding-haunts on the fresh waters of the north, so that it is not surprising that it should be one of the rarest of our water-fowl. It is probable, however, that it is often confused with the goosander, as the general appearance of the two is very much alike.

The male of the present bird can, however, easily be distinguished by having the under-parts not uniformly white up to the green-black head, but the white neck cut off from the abdomen by the reddish-brown, black-streaked breast; on each side of this there is also a patch of black-and-white feathers, and the flanks are grey in appearance above, being finely pencilled with black. Thus the bird looks darker altogether on the water, and seen on the wing the coloured breast-patch should attract attention. The bird also has a long hairy-looking crest, not a short bushy mane as in the male goosander.

The female is much more difficult to distinguish from that of the goosander, but the distinctions are clear enough if carefully looked into. The crest in the present bird is short and not noticeable, the head itself is dull brown, with hardly a tinge of chestnut, the back is mottled drab, not a distinct uniform grey, and the white wing-patch found in both species is in this one interrupted by a bar of black. The male in undress is very like the female, but has a black upper back.

This species is decidedly smaller than the goosander, but has quite as long a beak, which is, however, much slenderer, less hooked, and shows more teeth. It resembles the goosander in being a greedy devourer of fish, is a fine diver and fairly good walker, and is excessively wary, at any rate in Europe. In India it has only been got once or twice at Karachi, once in the Calcutta Bazaar and once in the Quetta district.

Indian Sporting Birds
Finn, Frank. Indian Sporting Birds. Edwards, 1915.
Title in Book: 
Merganser serrator
Book Author: 
Frank Finn
Page No: 
Common name: 
Red Breasted Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Mergus serrator
Term name: 

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