Goosander female

©Richard Steel/2020VISION

Goosander male

©Richard Steel/2020VISION

Goosander in flight

©Richard Steel/2020VISION


Scientific name: Mergus merganser
The streamlined goosander is a handsome bird and a great fisher - its long, serrated bill helps it to catch and hold its slippery fish prey. It nests in riverbank trees, but can be seen on lakes and reservoirs in winter.

Species information


Length: 57-69cm
Wingspan: 90cm
Weight: 1.3-1.7kg
Average lifespan: 7 years

Conservation status

Classified in the UK as Green under the Birds of Conservation Concern 4: the Red List for Birds (2015).

When to see

January to December


The goosander is a medium-sized duck and a member of a group called the 'sawbills' because of their long, narrow bills with saw-like 'teeth' which are good for gripping fish. A long, streamlined bird, it is perfectly shaped for swimming after fish. Goosanders are gregarious birds, forming flocks of thousands in some parts of Europe.

How to identify

Male goosanders are white, with dark green heads, black backs and long, red, hooked bills. The white sides and breast sometimes have a pink glow. Females are grey, with a gingery or reddish-brown head and a white throat.


Breeds on rivers in the north and west of the UK, and winters on lakes and reservoirs.

Did you know?

Goosander nest in holes in trees along the riverbank. They first bred in in the UK in 1871, building up numbers in Scotland and moving south to northern England and Wales. It is now found in the South West too.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with fishermen, farmers and landowners to ensure that our wildlife is both protected and provides benefits for people. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.