Murie, Olaus J. (1959) FAUNA OF THE ALEUTIAN ISLANDS AND ALASKA PENINSULA, 1936-38, U.S. Dept. Interior, Fish & Wildlife Service, Washington. pg 104-5
Common Merganser: Mergus merganser
Mergus merganser americanus
Aleut names: Attu: Chu-vai-ach, Siss-uch
Ha-Ka chai-ii-too Russian, Commander Islands: Bolschoj Krachal (Stejneger)
Friedmann (1935) records a number of specimens from Kodiak, as well as a number of eggs, which he said to be those of the common merganser, and he quotes Bretherton as saying that this duck nests on Kodiak.
Osgood (1904) had very little information on this merganser for the base of the Alaska Peninsula, but he mentions an adult male killed at Becharof Lake.
Cahalane (1944) observed several on the Naknek River on September 4, 1940.
Jaques (1930) found flocks of these ducks (most were males) near Port Moller in late May and June, but he saw no sign of nesting.
In 1936, we were informed by residents at Chignik that two kinds of mergansers occur there.
A number of records of occurrence are available for Unalaska, probably because it has always been a prominent port where vessels put in during voyages through that region. Dall (1873) said several specimens were taken there on December 20, 1873, and he adds that none were seen in the Shumagins. Turner says they winter at Unalaska, but do not breed there. Eyerdam (1936a) reports that two birds were collected at Unalaska on June 10 and August 6, 1932.
We saw no common mergansers in the Aleutians. The chief of Attu Island, who furnished the series of names for this bird, said that a few common mergansers nest there but that they are more numerous in winter.
To sum up, the common merganser occurs sparingly from Kodiak to Attu ; the best evidence of nesting comes from Kodiak Island; and (possibly) it nests on Attu Island. We know that it is an inland form — more so than M. serrator.
Mergus serrator: Red-breasted Merganser
Aleut names: Attu : Criich-ah'-lich
Agldyax (given by Jochelson as applying to two species)
Russian, Commander Islands: Krakhal (Stejneger) (The Attu name is undoubtedly a corruption of the Russian.)
This is the commoner merganser of the Aleutian district. It breeds on Kodiak Island (Friedmann, 1935) , and Cahalane (1943) found it generally very abundant in the Kodiak- Afognak group in 1940. He also observed it in various places in the Katmai region, where Hine (1919) also reported it to be common.
Osgood (1904) found it "exceedingly abundant on all the lakes and rivers" visited at the base of Alaska Peninsula, and he mentions seeing broods of young on Iliamna, Chulitna, Kakhtul, and Nushagak Rivers. He remarks, "From start to finish probably more mergansers were seen than any other species of water bird, with the exception of the large gulls."
Gabrielson also noted this duck in 1940 on the rivers tributary to Bristol Bay. There were at least 50 broods of young, in all ages, on the Kvichak River, July 23.
This merganser was reported as common at Chignik, and Jaques (1930) found it paired on King Salmon Creek, near Port Moller after June 11, "possibly breeding."
On May 26, 1936, we saw two females in Nushagak River at Snag Point, and a pair was seen back on the marshes among the lakes near Ugashik River, where they probably nest.
In 1925, I found this merganser nesting about Izembek Bay, and, on May 25, 1925, 4 were seen on a mountain stream below Aghileen Pinnacles. (On May 4, and on several subsequent days, red-breasted mergansers were noted at Urilia Bay, on Unimak Island.) On July 5, a nest with six eggs was found on a small island near Point Grant, and another nest was found on a little island far out in Izembek Bay, in the midst of a colony of glacous-winged gulls. Red-breasted mergansers with molting wing feathers were seen late in July.
Chase Littlejohn, in 1887-88, said that this duck breeds at Sanak and at Morzhovoi Bay, where they remained all winter.
McGregor (1906) found three nests on Round Island, Beaver Inlet, Unalaska Island, July 4, 1901. On June 3, 1936, we saw six of these mergansers at Unalaska — Wetmore also had observed them here on June 6 and 7, 1911, and had collected a specimen.
At Unalaska Island, Cahn (1947) found a brood of 9 young in the Makushin Valley swamp, June 23, 1944, and he observed a brood of 11 downy young on Coxcomb Lake, July 4, 1945.
On August 15, 1937, we flushed a female from a grass-topped islet off the shore of Amlia Island. We had found 3 pairs on Kiska Island, June 4 and 5, where Wetmore had seen 1 pair in June 1911. We found a foot of red-breasted merganser in an eagle's nest on Buldir. On June 17, we saw a flock of 7 at Semichi Islands; 6 were noted on Amchitka Island. Incidentally, Dall (1874) had reported that Amchitka was the only place in the western Aleutians where this species had been observed.
In 1936, we noted a flock of seven red-breasted mergansers on Corwin Lake, Atka Island, June 22. Several were seen on Kanaga, June 29, and eight were seen in a lake on Kiska, July 26. At Adak Island, July 3, two were seen in Bay of Islands, and three or four in Kuluk Bay. June 26-27, 1911, Wetmore found them to be fairly common in the small lakes back of Bay Waterfalls, Adak Island, where he found a brood of nine downy young about a week old — he suspected that there was a brood in another lake. And on September 3, 1944, Gabrielson found a brood on Amchitka, thus definitely establishing a nesting record for that part of the Aleutian chain.
The Attu chief said that these ducks nest on Attu, and Atka natives reported them nesting on their island. Turner also reported them nesting on Atka.
We can definitely state that the red-breasted merganser nests from Kodiak to Attu, and, according to Stejneger (1885), it is a very common breeding bird in the Commander Islands.
Apparently, it winters in the Aleutians also (though perhaps in small numbers), because Taber (1946) observed them at Adak from December 9, 1945, to January 13, 1946.