Note the very distinctive dark head, red bill and crest. From a distance the Red-breasted Merganser can look like a black and white bird. The Male Goosander in Winter is a similar looking bird but he lacks the red eye and crest and has white flanks.
The Male Red-breasted Merganser in Winter has a green-black head with a wispy crest. Its bill is long, slim, red and slightly upturned. The body of the bird has a broad white strip down the back and it has grey flanks and a black back.
Adult Male Winter
General distribution: Breeds In Northern UK and the North of Europe. Generally moves South to Winter but some birds remain around breeding areas.
Habitat: The Red-breasted Merganser breeds near rivers or next to the sea. When not breeding it favours sheltered estuaries and sea lochs.
Notes: During the winter the Red-breasted Merganser is a social bird, most often seen in small, same sex groups. When feeding it will often dip its head below the water to look for food before diving.
The Male Red-breasted Merganser in Summer can look frustratingly like the Female, he has a bolder white wing patch, more substantial crest and a darker face. His flanks are also greyer than the female.
The Female Red-breasted Merganser has a brownish-grey body and a chestnut-brown head, her bill is red, thin and slightly upturned. Her eye is red and she has a small white wing patch. Note that she lacks a defined white collar/throat on the neck like the very similar Female Goosander.
The Female Red-breasted Merganser's body colour can vary from dark brown, almost black, to light grey like this bird. This can also be very much dependent upon the lighting conditions that the bird is viewed in.