AskDefine | Define merganser

Dictionary Definition

merganser n : large crested fish-eating diving duck having a slender hooked bill with serrated edges [syn: fish duck, sawbill, sheldrake]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. Any of various diving ducks of the genus Mergus, which feed on fish and have a sharply serrated bill.


Extensive Definition

Mergus is the genus of typical mergansers, ducks in the seaduck subfamily (Merginae).
Although they are seaducks, most of the mergansers prefer riverine habitats, only Red-breasted Merganser being common on the sea. These large fish-eaters have serrated edges to their bills to help them grip their prey. Along with the Smew and Hooded Merganser, they are therefore often known as "sawbills".


Fossil species that have been described are Mergus miscellus from the Middle Miocene Calvert Formation (c. 14 mya, Barstovian) of Virginia, USA and Mergus connectens (Middle Pleistocene of C Europe or somewhere between 800.000 and 125.000 years ago). An undescribed fossil merganser is documented from the Middle Miocene Sajóvölgyi Formation (Late Badenian, 13-12 mya) of Mátraszõlõs, Hungary (Gál et al. 1998-99).
The Hooded Merganser, often termed Mergus cucullatus, is phylogentically not of the Mergus genus.


  • Arnott, W. G. (1964): Notes on Gavia and Mergvs in Latin Authors. Classical Quarterly, New Series 14(2): 249-262. First page image
  • Gál, Erika; Hír, János; Kessler, Eugén & Kókay, József (1998-99): Középsõ-miocén õsmaradványok, a Mátraszõlõs, Rákóczi-kápolna alatti útbevágásból. I. A Mátraszõlõs 1. lelõhely [Middle Miocene fossils from the sections at the Rákóczi chapel at Mátraszőlős. Locality Mátraszõlõs I.]. Folia Historico Naturalia Musei Matraensis 23: 33-78. [Hungarian with English abstract] PDF fulltext


merganser in Bulgarian: Нирци
merganser in Czech: Morčák
merganser in German: Säger
merganser in Estonian: Koskel
merganser in Spanish: Mergus
merganser in French: Mergus
merganser in Western Frisian: Seachbekken
merganser in Georgian: ბატასინი
merganser in Lithuanian: Dančiasnapiai
merganser in Occitan (post 1500): Mergus
merganser in Northern Sami: Goalssit
merganser in Finnish: Koskelot
merganser in Swedish: Mergus
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