Common merganser

The common merganser (North American) or goosander (Eurasian) (Mergus merganser) is a large duck of rivers and lakes in forested areas of Europe, northern and central Asia, and North America.

The common merganser eats fish and nests in holes in trees.

Common merganser
Mergus merganser -Sandwell -England -male-8
M. m. merganser, male in Sandwell, England
Female Mergus merganser americanus at Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds
M. m. merganser, female
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Anseriformes
Family: Anatidae
Genus: Mergus
M. merganser
Binomial name
Mergus merganser

3, see text

Mergus merganser distr
M. merganser range      Breeding range     Year-round range     Wintering range

Merganser americanus Cassin, 1852

Mergus merganser, female and male, Vaxholm, Sweden
Mergus merganser couple, Vaxholm, Sweden


The first formal description of the common merganser was by the Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus in 1758 in the tenth edition of his Systema Naturae. He introduced the current binomial name Mergus merganser.[2] The genus name is a Latin word used by Pliny and other Roman authors to refer to an unspecified waterbird, and merganser is derived from mergus and anser, Latin for "goose"[3] In 1843 John James Audubon used the name "Buff-breasted Merganser" in addition to "goosander" in his book The Birds of America.[4]

There are three subspecies, differing in only minor detail:[5][6]

  • M. m. merganserLinnaeus, 1758: found throughout northern Europe and northern Asia.
  • M. m. orientalisGould, 1845 (syn. M. m. comatusSalvadori, 1895): found in the Central Asian mountains. Slightly larger than M. m. merganser, with a slenderer bill.
  • M. m. americanusCassin, 1852: found in North America. Bill broader-based than in M. m. merganser, and a black bar crossing the white inner wing (visible in flight) on males.


It is 58–72 cm (23–28 in) long with a 78–97 cm (31–38 in) wingspan and a weight of 0.9–2.1 kg (2.0–4.6 lb); males average slightly larger than females but with some overlap. Like other species in the genus Mergus, it has a crest of longer head feathers, but these usually lie smoothly rounded behind the head, not normally forming an erect crest. Adult males in breeding plumage are easily distinguished, the body white with a variable salmon-pink tinge, the head black with an iridescent green gloss, the rump and tail grey, and the wings largely white on the inner half, black on the outer half. Females, and males in "eclipse" (non-breeding plumage, July to October) are largely grey, with a reddish-brown head, white chin, and white secondary feathers on the wing. Juveniles (both sexes) are similar to adult females but also show a short black-edged white stripe between the eye and bill. The bill and legs are red to brownish-red, brightest on adult males, dullest on juveniles.[5][6][7]



Goosander looking up
Female goosander's bill showing the serrated edge
Jona - Jona (SG) - Mergus merganser IMG 9145
Couple and single female on Jona (river) in Switzerland

Like the other mergansers, these fish-feeding ducks have serrated edges to their bills to help them grip their prey, so they are often known as "sawbills". In addition to fish, they take a wide range of other aquatic prey, such as molluscs, crustaceans, worms, insect larvae, and amphibians; more rarely, small mammals and birds may be taken.[5][6] As in other birds with the character, the salmon-pink tinge shown variably by males is probably diet-related, obtained from the carotenoid pigments present in some crustaceans and fish.[8] When not diving for food, they are usually seen swimming on the water surface, or resting on rocks in midstream or hidden among riverbank vegetation, or (in winter) on the edge of floating ice.[5][6]

In most places, the common merganser is as much a frequenter of salt water as fresh water. In larger streams and rivers, they float down with the stream for a few miles, and either fly back again or more commonly fish their way back, diving incessantly the whole way. In smaller streams, they are present in pairs or smaller groups, and they float down, twisting round and round in the rapids, or fishing vigorously in a deep pool near the foot of a waterfall or rapid. When floating leisurely, they position themselves in water similar to ducks, but they also swim deep in water like cormorants, especially when swimming upstream. They often sit on a rock in the middle of the water, similar to cormorants, often half-opening their wings to the sun. To rise from water, they flap along the surface for many yards. Once they are airborne, the flight is strong and rapid.[9] They often fish in a group forming a semicircle and driving the fish into shallow water, where they are captured easily. Their ordinary voice is a low, harsh croak, but during the breeding season, they (including the young) make a plaintive, soft whistle. Generally, they are wary, and one or more birds stay on sentry duty to warn the flock of approaching danger. When disturbed, they often disgorge food before moving.[10] Though they move clumsily on land, they resort to running when pressed, assuming a very upright position similar to penguins, and falling and stumbling frequently.[11]

Common Merganser, female and 4 young
M. m. americanus, female and juveniles


Mergus merganser MWNH 2015
Egg, Collection Museum Wiesbaden

Nesting is normally in a tree cavity, so it requires mature forest as its breeding habitat; they also readily use large nest boxes where provided, requiring an entrance hole 15 cm (5.9 in) in diameter.[12] In places devoid of trees (like Central Asian mountains), they use holes in cliffs and steep, high banks, sometimes at considerable distances from the water.[10] The female lays 6–17 (most often 8–12) white to yellowish eggs, and raises one brood in a season. The ducklings are taken by their mother in her bill to rivers or lakes immediately after hatching, where they feed on freshwater invertebrates and small fish fry, fledging when 60–70 days old. The young are sexually mature at the age of two years.[5][6][7] Common Mergansers are known to form crèches, with single females having being observed with over 70 ducklings at one time.[13]


The species is a partial migrant, with birds moving away from areas where rivers and major lakes freeze in the winter, but resident where waters remain open. Eastern North American birds move south in small groups to the United States wherever ice free conditions exist on lakes and rivers; on the milder Pacific coast, they are permanent residents. Scandinavian and Russian birds also migrate southwards, but western European birds, and a few in Japan, are largely resident.[5][6] In some populations, the males also show distinct moult migration, leaving the breeding areas as soon as the young hatch to spend the summer (June to September) elsewhere. Notably, most of the western European male population migrates north to estuaries in Finnmark in northern Norway (principally Tanafjord) to moult, leaving the females to care for the ducklings. Much smaller numbers of males also use estuaries in eastern Scotland as a moulting area.[7][14][15]

Status and conservation

Robert Wilkinson Padley - A Dun Diver (Goosander) - Google Art Project
Robert Wilkinson Padley - A Goosander, 1817

Overall, the species is not threatened, though illegal persecution by game fishing interests is a problem in some areas.[16]

Within western Europe, a marked southward spread has occurred from Scandinavia in the breeding range since about 1850, colonising Scotland in 1871, England in 1941, and also a strong increase in the population in the Alps.[7] They are very scarce in Ireland, with regular breeding confined to a few pairs in County Wicklow.[17]

The goosander is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds applies.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Mergus merganser". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
  2. ^ Linnaeus, C. (1758). Systema Naturæ per regna tria naturae, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis, Volume 1 (in Latin). v.1 (10th ed.). Holmiae:Laurentii Salvii. p. 129.
  3. ^ Jobling, James A (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. pp. 250–251. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  4. ^ Audubon, J.J. (1843). The birds of America. Vol. 6. pp. 387–394.
  5. ^ a b c d e f del Hoyo, J.; Elliott, A.; Sargatal, J., eds. (1992). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 1. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions. p. 626. ISBN 978-84-87334-10-8.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Madge, S.; Burn, H. (1987). Wildfowl: An Identification Guide to the Ducks, Geese and Swans of the World. A & C Black. ISBN 978-0-7470-2201-5.
  7. ^ a b c d Snow, D.W.; Perrins, C.M. (1998). The Birds of the Western Palearctic (Concise ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-854099-1.
  8. ^ Hudon, J.; Brush, A.H. (1990). "Carotenoids produce flush in the Elegant Tern plumage" (PDF). The Condor. 92 (3): 798–801. doi:10.2307/1368708. JSTOR 1368708.
  9. ^ Hume, A.O.; Marshall, C.H.T. (1880). The Game birds of India, Burmah and Ceylon. 3. Self published.
  10. ^ a b Baker, E.C.S. (1928). Fauna of British India. Birds. Volume 5 (2nd ed.). London: Taylor and Francis. pp. 470–473.
  11. ^ Baker, E.C. Stuart (1922). The game birds of India, Burma and Ceylon. Vol. 1. London, Bombay Natural History Society. pp. 317–327.
  12. ^ du Feu, C. (2005). Nestboxes (PDF). British Trust for Ornithology Field Guide. Thetford: The British Trust for Ornithology.
  13. ^ Mervosh, Sarah (2018-07-24). "1 Hen, 76 Ducklings: What's the Deal With This Picture?". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Little, B.; Furness, R.W. (1985). "Long distance moult migration by British Goosanders Mergus merganser". Ringing & Migration. 6 (2): 77–82. doi:10.1080/03078698.1985.9673860.
  15. ^ Hatton, P.L.; Marquiss, M. (2004). "The origins of moulting Goosanders on the Eden Estuary". Ringing & Migration. 22 (2): 70–74. doi:10.1080/03078698.2004.9674315.
  16. ^ "Crimes against birds". Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime in Scotland. 2009-12-07.
  17. ^ Report of the Irish Rare Breeding Birds Panel 2013 Irish Birds Vol. 10 p.65

External links

Fauna of Toronto

The fauna of Toronto include a variety of different species that have adapted to the urban environment, its parks, its ravine system, and the creeks and rivers that run throughout Toronto. Many other animals from outside the city limits have been known to straddle inside on from time to time.

Grand Codroy Estuary

The Grand Codroy Estuary is a 925 hectare wetland on the southwestern coast of the island of Newfoundland in Canada, approximately 30 km north of Port aux Basques. It is "[one] of the most productive of Newfoundland's few estuarine wetland sites", and is "the province's most important wetland". It is a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention, receiving this designation on May 27, 1987. To the south is a globally significant Important Bird Area.As a result of the provincial Order in Council named the Hunting Prohibition Order, hunting has not been permitted on the estuary since 1974.

Highwood, Wokingham

Highwood is a local nature reserve between Woodley and Earley. The nature reserve is owned and managed by Wokingham Borough Council.

Hooded merganser

The hooded merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) is a species of small duck. It is the only extant species in the genus Lophodytes. The genus name derives from the Greek language: lophos meaning 'crest', and dutes meaning diver. The bird is striking in appearance; both sexes have crests that they can raise or lower, and the breeding plumage of the male is handsomely patterned and coloured. The hooded merganser has a sawbill but is not classified as a typical merganser.

Hooded mergansers are the second smallest species of merganser, with only the smew of Europe and Asia being smaller, and it also is the only merganser whose native habitat is restricted to North America.

A species of fossil duck from the Late Pleistocene of Vero Beach, Florida, was described as Querquedula floridana (a genus now included in Anas), but upon reexamination turned out to be a species closely related to the hooded merganser; it is now named Lophodytes floridanus, but the exact relationship between this bird and the modern species is unknown.

Lake Trboje

Lake Trboje (Slovene: Trbojsko jezero), also named Lake Mavčiče (Mavčiško jezero) and Lake Kranj (Kranjsko jezero), is an artificial lake west of the village of Trboje in the Municipality of Šenčur, northwestern Slovenia. It was created in 1986 as a reservoir for the Mavčiče Hydroelectric Plant by damming the Sava River.The lake, which belongs to the Municipalities of Šenčur, Kranj, and Medvode, covers an area of 1 square kilometre (0.39 sq mi) and is up to 17 metres (56 ft) deep. As the lake submerged part of the Zarica Gorge of the Sava, it is surrounded by steep banks, with conglomerate cliffs in the northern part. A number of villages lie at the lake: from the south towards the north, they are Moše, Trboje and Žerjavka on the east side, and Mavčiče, Praše, and Jama on the west side.The lake is renowned by its fauna, which includes numerous fish (particularly carp) and about 140 species of birds. It is a rare and the biggest nesting place of the common merganser in Slovenia. The flora features a number of alpine species, among them the edelweiss. It is a popular place for fishing and boating.

List of birds of Mont-Tremblant National Park

This lists the species of birds in Mont-Tremblant National Park in Quebec, Canada. The bolded species indicate that they are threatened in the area.

List of birds of North America (Anseriformes)

The birds listed below belong to the biological order Anseriformes, and are native to North America.


The seaducks (Mergini) are a tribe of the duck subfamily of birds, the Anatinae. The taxonomy of this group is incomplete. Some authorities separate the group as a subfamily, others remove some genera from the group and keep others. Most species within the group spend their winters near coastal waters. Many species have developed specialized salt glands to allow them to tolerate salt water but these are poorly developed in juveniles. Some of the species prefer riverine habitats. All but two of the 20 species in this group live in far northern latitudes.

The fish-eating members of this group, such as the mergansers and smew, have serrated edges to their bills to help them grip their prey and are often known as "sawbills". Other seaducks forage by diving underwater, taking molluscs or crustaceans from the sea floor. The Mergini take on the eclipse plumage during the late summer and molt into their breeding plumage during the winter.


Mergus is the genus of the typical mergansers, fish-eating ducks in the subfamily Anatinae. The genus name is a Latin word used by Pliny and other Roman authors to refer to an unspecified waterbird.The hooded merganser, often termed Mergus cucullatus, is not of this genus but closely related. The other "aberrant" merganser, the smew (Mergellus albellus), is phylogenetically closer to goldeneyes (Bucephala).

Although they are seaducks, most of the mergansers prefer riverine habitats, with only the red-breasted merganser being common at sea. These large fish-eaters typically have black-and-white, brown and/or green hues in their plumage, and most have somewhat shaggy crests. All have serrated edges to their long and thin bills that help them grip their prey. Along with the smew and hooded merganser, they are therefore often known as "sawbills". The goldeneyes, on the other hand, feed mainly on mollusks, and therefore have a more typical duck-bill.Mergus are also classified as "divers" because they go completely under-water in looking for food. In other traits, however, the genera Mergus, Lophodytes, Mergellus, and Bucephala are very similar; uniquely among all Anseriformes, they do not have notches at the hind margin of their sternum, but holes surrounded by bone.

Middle Fork Salmon River

The Middle Fork of the Salmon River is a 104-mile-long (167 km) river in central Idaho in the northwestern United States. The Middle Fork is a tributary to the Salmon River, and it lies in the center of the 2.5-million-acre (3,900 sq mi; 10,000 km2) Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area. Designated by the United States Congress as a federally protected wilderness in 1980, it is part of the largest roadless area left in the lower 48 states.

Neversink Preserve

The Neversink Preserve is located in Deerpark, Orange County, New York. It was created in 1993 by The Nature Conservancy. They purchased 170 acres (69 ha) of land on the Neversink River and created the Neversink Preserve in order to protect the newly discovered and federally endangered species of mussel, the dwarf wedge mussel. Over time they have purchased more land so that the Neversink Preserve covers 550 acres (220 ha). Theodore Gordon, considered the father of modern American fly-fishing, perfected his dry-fly techniques here in the 19th century. Nearly 15 million people rely on the waters of the Delaware River Basin for drinking water and industrial use making the Neversink Preserve a top priority of The Nature Conservancy.

Obra (river)

Obra is a river in west Poland, a tributary of the Warta river (in Skwierzyna), with a length of 171 kilometres and a basin area of 2,760 km2. The river is popular with canoe and kayak enthusiasts and an established canoe trail exists.

Peche Island

Peche Island (French pronunciation anglicized to , therefore occasionally misspelled "Peach"), is an uninhabited, currently 86-acre (35 ha) (reduced by erosion from a 1965 measurement of 109 acres / 43.7 ha) Canadian-owned island in the Detroit River, at its opening into Lake Saint Clair. It is 1.2 miles (1.9 km) east of U.S.-owned Belle Isle, and 360 yards (330 m) from the Windsor shore.

The island was formed from a peninsula of the Canadian shore by the action of the Detroit River. There is a central marsh on the island. The present channel was eroded until the core of the island remained. There are man-made channels cut through the island to ensure fresh water supply and recreational opportunities. The island's flora and fauna have been heavily affected by human activity, and the forest is the result of a rehabilitation programme.

Formerly an Ontario provincial park, ownership was transferred to the City of Windsor in 1999. The Detroit River passes 200 yards (183 m) off its northern shore and daily 1,000-foot-long (300 m) ships pass.

The island offers attractive Detroit city views, a wide sandy beach and shallow river bottom, and is a favorite with summer boaters. As of June 27th 2018, the City of Windsor began to run a ferry service to the island for day trips. Tours operate Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays, weather permitting, from June to October. Boaters, canoers and kayakers can enjoy the island's trails and beaches and approximately 2.5 miles (4 km) of canals. The park is open only during the day. Sailors are advised to anchor along the southern shore of the island, abeam the Windsor Yacht Club. Speed between red buoy DP2 west of Peche Island and green buoy DP5 east of Peche Island must be held below 5 knots (9 km/h). For kayakers, the circumnavigation distance is approximately 3 miles (4.8 km).

From November through March large numbers of waterfowl, especially canvasback, redhead, lesser scaup, common goldeneye and common merganser, are all found in the nearby waters. Peregrine falcons and bald eagles are often attracted by these large flocks and can sometimes be seen perched in the island's larger treetops, or in the nesting platforms constructed by the Essex County Field Naturalists' Club. Muskie and walleye, bigmouth bass, bluegill and perch are found in the waters surrounding the island, and fishing pressures are reported low. Water quality is good, and carefully monitored, as the City of Windsor's supply is drawn from nearby. Peche Island is one of the few places where the rare blue ash tree (Fraxinus quadrangulata) can be found.

Red Rock State Park

Red Rock State Park is a state park of Arizona, USA, featuring a red sandstone canyon outside the city of Sedona. The main mission of this day-use park is the preservation of the riparian habitat along Oak Creek. Red Rock State Park serves as an environmental education facility for the public and for school or private groups, and provides limited passive recreational opportunities.

Rodley Nature Reserve

The Rodley Nature Reserve is a wetland reserve created in 1999 on the site of a former sewage works on the outskirts of Rodley, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom. It is situated just north of Town Street on the north bank of the River Aire.

Sawbill Lake

Sawbill Lake is a lake in Cook County, Minnesota. The closest town to Sawbill Lake is Tofte. It is a popular entry point (number 38) to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in the Superior National Forest. Sawbill is a nickname of the common merganser duck. There is a United States Forest Service cabin, a canoe outfitter, and a campground located at the southern end of the lake. During the Great Depression there was a Civilian Conservation Corps camp six miles south of the lake.

Sawbill has portages connecting it to Smoke Lake, Kelso Lake, Ada Creek and Alton Lake.

Sea Duck Joint Venture

The Sea Duck Joint Venture (SDJV) is a conservation partnership established in 1998 whose mission is "promoting the conservation of North America’s Sea Ducks". The partners are the Canadian Wildlife Service, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the United States Geological Survey, Ducks Unlimited, Bird Studies Canada, the Pacific Flyway Council, and the council for U.S. Flyways. It is one of three species joint ventures operating within the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

The partnership studies 15 species of sea ducks: Barrow's goldeneye, black scoter, bufflehead, common eider, common goldeneye, common merganser, harlequin duck, hooded merganser, king eider, long-tailed duck, red-breasted merganser, spectacled eider, Steller's eider, surf scoter, and white-winged scoter. These represent one third of all waterfowl species in North America. Four of these species are threatened in some of their habitats: the harlequin duck in eastern Canada, the Barrow's goldeneye in eastern Canada and Maine, and the spectacled eider and Steller's eider in the United States.Four primary factors were identified for the declining populations of sea ducks in North America: "lack of knowledge about their ecology, contaminants, unsustainable hunting, and habitat loss and degradation". Activities such as "logging, fuel-wood harvesting, and land developments" have resulted in loss of breeding habitats for cavity-nesting sea ducks, particularly the mergansers, goldeneyes, and buffleheads. Habitat loss includes the effects of coastal development, resource exploration and development, use of waterways for shipping, and other large-scale environmental changes. Contamination results from oil spills and the discharge of heavy metals into the water system.

The Floating Feather

The Floating Feather is the commonly used name for an oil-on-canvas painting by Dutch artist Melchior d'Hondecoeter, properly titled A Pelican and Other Birds Near a Pool. The fine detail of the feather floating on the pond led to the "official" title being quickly supplanted.

The picture was painted around 1680, probably for either the hunting lodge of the Stadholder William III of Orange, which is now the royal palace at Soestdijk, or Het Loo Palace in Apeldoorn.

The painting shows a number of birds, both common and exotic, gathered around a pool. Hondecoeter was known for his bird studies and in particular for the realistic portrayal of the subjects. Although he experimented with different styles early in his career, after 1660 he favoured compositions similar to that seen in The Floating Feather: carefully observed subjects set in farmyards, courtyards or country parks with architectural or landscape features enhancing the backgrounds. His paintings were admired by the regents and merchants of Amsterdam, and by William III, who had works at three of his palaces. Hondecoeter's murals and large paintings were well-suited to both the large country houses and the tastes of the time.

Hondecoeter kept his own poultry yard at his house, but visited the country houses of his patrons where he could study more exotic species. It was said that he had trained a rooster to stand still on command, so that he could paint it without interruption. In this picture, alongside the great white pelican are species of wild fowl and domesticated duck, among them a Eurasian teal, common merganser, red-breasted goose, Eurasian wigeon, common shelduck, muscovy duck, brant goose, smew, Egyptian goose, and northern pintail. On the far side of the pool are also large birds from different continents: a southern cassowary, black crowned crane, and American flamingo. A sarus crane and a second flamingo are visible in the background. Flying above the pool there is a golden oriole depicted.

Hondecoeter produced a strikingly similar picture, A Pelican and other exotic birds in a park, in which some elements of the composition are identical: the birds on the water, the group of exotic birds, the pelican, and the floating feather. Other features are similar, such as the landscape and the muscovy duck which is seen in full, while some are entirely different; in this picture a Moluccan cockatoo perches in a tree above the pool and different birds are introduced on the far side of the pool to the right. The exact date of this painting is not known, but it is estimated to be between 1655 and 1660.

Wraysbury and Hythe End Gravel Pits

Wraysbury and Hythe End Gravel Pits is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) based in Wraysbury,Berkshire. The site is important for the number of bird species it features.


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