Striking and elegant-looking, the Hooded Merganser is a common duck found throughout the United States and southern Canada. Its beautiful plumage makes it a popular species with birdwatchers, photographers and artists. Adult males can be identified by a large black crest running the length of their heads with distinctive black-and-white patterning on the face. The back and chest are similarly patterned with rust-colored wings and flanks. Adult females are drabber, but still possess the aforementioned crest in a soft chestnut color. Their bodies are a speckled gray or brown. This is the second smallest variety of merganser in the world with both sexes measuring no more than 19 inches (48.2 cm) in length.
This bird will often congregate in large numbers around freshwater lakes or saltwater bays. They may nest alongside the water in old trees or logs and spend the day diving for fish, aquatic insects, crustaceans and vegetation.
The Hooded Merganser can be found in a variety of forests and mixed woodlands throughout North America, although the largest populations are located around the Great Lakes. In the Pacific Northwest, they commonly nest in spruce-fir forests and in and around marshes, lakes and ponds.