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Bird Sightings : Hebrides : Goosander



Awaiting image for this species




(Common Merganser, Sawbill, Redhead, Dun-diver)

Mergus merganser


  • Goosander (Common Merganser, Sawbill, Redhead)
  • Mergus merganser
  • UK: Resident Breeder, Winter Visitor
    UK: 2600 pairs (Summer) BTO, 8900 birds winter (RSPB)
  • WI: Scarce passage visitor (very small numbers recorded in most years). Two breeding records as at 2001
  • Breeds: Holes in trees or other crevices by freshwater lakes, slow rivers (usually forested areas). Europe - Scandinavia, Russia, Asia, North America,
  • Winters: (Some resident to breeding zone), estuaries, rivers, ponds, lochs, etc. Hardy, goes south of breeding sites to ice-free areas & further: Mexico, Mediterranean, Black Sea
  • Superb diver (to 45 seconds), serrated bill (sawbill - teeth point backward like shark's) adaptation for catching fish (& chases them swimming) also eats mussels, shrimps & aquatic insects
  • Large duck. Long neck & long flat-backed body, rides low in water. Long slender red bill.
    Females & 1st yrs red-brown heads, white throat, (sharp division), crest 2 tufts: (hindcrown & nape) form punk-like mane, greyish body
    Males breeding: mostly white (pinkish winter), black head & upper neck (glossy green in good light), crest looks "greased back" & changes head shape, back mostly black
    Dozes on water on sunny winter days
  • Max recorded age: 14yr 10 mths
  • Listen to a goosander (RSPB site)
  • Similar bird: Red-breasted Merganser


After breeding 80% of male goosanders migrate to 4 fjords in Norway where they moult their flight feathers (becoming flightless), most of the goosander males about in December have just returned.

In 1871 there were only 2 pairs of goosander breeding in the UK (in Scotland), now there are approximately 2600 UK pairs.

Up to it's adulthood a goosander can eat 33kg of fish. After breeding season adult males gathering to moult can form flocks of tens of thousands. Goosander prefers salmon and trout up to 1 foot length (80% of diet) - so the birds and their eggs have often been a target for people who keep fishing stocks. Once goosander had a bounty on their heads, now they are protected by law, although licences to kill them are granted. There are mixed opinions as to if goosander do make a significant difference to fish stocks when the effects of rising sea temperatures, over-fishing and other ecological factors caused by mankind are taken into account.

Some superb goosander photographs on Steven Round's web site



Goosander records in the Western Isles

Scarce passage visitor (very small numbers recorded in most years)
Two breeding records as at 2001
Source: Outer Hebrides Bird Report (2001)


On the chart below the darker the shade of blue the more abundant the Goosander is during a month or the more likely you are to see it.

























(Source: Outer Hebrides Birds Checklist)




Male or female ducks and their collective nouns

Some people use the word duck only for an adult female and drake for an adult male whilst others say hen and drake.

Waterfowl collective nouns (From WIKI):
waterfowl (on water) A raft
waterfowl A bunch of waterfowl
waterfowl (less than 30) A knob
ducks, swimming A paddling of ducks
waterfowl A plump
ducks, idle in water A raft of ducks
ducks, diving A dopping of ducks
ducks, on ground A badelynge of ducks
ducks, flying A flight, plump, or team of ducks
ducks A brace, bunch, flock, skein, sord, string, brace, flush




Other local bird photographs

Sources of information for the bird sightings section

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