Wild Harris

Red-breasted Merganser

Red Breasted Merganser 2 LCampbell.jpgRed-Breasted Merganser    (Photo: Laurie Campbell)

Mergansers belong to a group of birds called the sawbills, which describes what their beaks are like. They have a long, red beak with ridges along the inside edge, so that they can catch fish easily and hold on to the wriggling fish.

The male, shown in the photograph above, has a dark green head and a chestnut coloured breast.

Red Breasted Merganser 1 LCampbell.jpgRed-Breasted Merganser    (Photo: Laurie Campbell)

This is the female bird – it is grey with a reddish-brown head.

The live around the shore and can often be seen in sea lochs. They swim low in the water and regularly dip their head underneath looking for food. They dive down often to catch fish.

The nest is close to water, usually in a hole in a bank. It is lined with soft down and the chicks take one month to hatch. They leave the nest soon afterwards, and then several groups of chicks may be looked after together by a single female or ‘auntie’.

by Alison Tyler