The National Aviary is closed on Tuesday, March 20.

The National Aviary is closed on Tuesday, March 20.

Scaly-sided Merganser

Scaly-sided Merganser (Mergus squamatus)


This large diving duck with a decidedly un-duck-like bill, is one of only four existing species of “sawbills” (the nickname for large mergansers of the genus Mergus).  With their specialized long, thin, saw-toothed bills, Scaly-sided Mergansers are well equipped to pluck the larvae of aquatic insects from the bottoms of fast-moving rivers, or to grasp and hold slim, slippery fish.  Both males and females sport delicate black edging along the white feathers of their flanks, creating the scale-like pattern that gives them their name.

Just like the more familiar Common Merganser (Mergus merganser), the Scaly-sided Merganser depends on pristine forested rivers and streams. Unlike the Common Merganser, though, the Scaly-sided faces numerous conservation challenges throughout its restricted range from eastern Siberia through northeastern China to northern North Korea, including commercial logging, illegal hunting, water pollution and entanglement in fishing nets. No more than about 5,000 Scaly-sided Mergansers survive in the wild, and the species is found in fewer than 10 zoos worldwide

The National Aviary has become an active partner in the Species Survival Plan® for this endangered diving duck.  Suitable nesting cavities have been prepared for the pair in our Wetlands, and we’re making sure they have lots of clean water and fresh fish to encourage them to start a family.  This isn’t so different from the conservation efforts going on in their native breeding grounds.  Artificial nest boxes are being installed where over-logging has removed the trees they depend on for nesting, and regulations to reduce water pollution and recreational boating during the Mergansers’ breeding season have all helped to stabilize the endangered population.