Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) male 21-2-15
Status: Resident and winter visitor from the Continent
Conservation Concern: Green-listed in Ireland. The European population is regarded as Secure.
Identification: Similar to, but slimer than Goosander, and bill much finer. Adult males largely white with glossy green-black neck and head. White collar above black-streaked rufous brown breast. Black patch with white spots on the sides of the breast. Upperparts black and flanks grey. Females with dark brown head, with off-white neck, grey body, pale throat patch. Pale lores with dark lines above and below.
Similar Species: Goosander.
Call: Described as one hiccup and a sneeze - 'chika…pitchee'
Diet: Fish comprise the major component of the diet, predominantly small cod, hake and plaice. While on freshwater during the breeding season, they feed on roach, trout, salmon, eels and pike. They have also been recorded eating crustaceans and molluscs.
Breeding: Nest on sheltered lakes and large rivers throughout the west and north of the country, though they are largely absent from Clare and a few pairs have been recorded in Wexford. They use a variety of nesting habitats, usually located beside fast-flowing rivers, large and small lakes, also along the coast, on islands and sea-loughs.
Wintering: Winter exclusively in brackish and marine waters, particularly in shallow protected estuaries and bays and lagoons, and also offshore.
Where to See: Top wintering sites each support 150-250 birds and include Inner Galway Bay in County Galway, Strangford Lough in County Down, Wexford Harbour & Slobs in County Wexford and Larne Lough in County Antrim.