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Red-breasted merganser

Mergus serrator

All about the red breasted merganser

This bird is a member of a group called the ‘sawbills’ due to their saw-like or serrated ‘teeth’, perfect for gripping fish. It’s long and streamlined, with a thin bill, grey sides, a reddish-brown breast and crest of green feathers on its head.

Red-breasted mergansers are social birds, forming flocks of hundreds in winter. You’ll find more of them on UK coastlines over the winter, as they fly from the summer breeding grounds in Scotland, north-west England, north-west Wales, west Ireland, northern Europe, Asia and North America.

Red breasted mergansers never live far from the water. When they search for food you will see them dipping their heads underwater and also diving down under the water to retrieve small fish and crustaceans.

Red breasted mergansers can fly at speeds of around 80mph, making them the fastest flying duck.

Conservation status

Red breasted mergansers are amber listed in the UK

They are a a qualifying feature for the Portsmouth Harbour and Chichester and Langstone Harbours Special Protection Areas – that means, when the sites were designated, a nationally significant number of them used these coastlines in the winter.

Did you know?

The red-breasted merganser is officially a record-breaking duck, with a recorded top airspeed of 100 mph.

The Guinness Book of Records was founded when the head of the famous brewery wanted to solve an argument by identifying definitely the fastest game bird in Europe. The publishers say that the red-breasted merganser would be the most likely answer since in some parts of the world it is still occasionally hunted.