Mergus merganser (Linnaeus, 1758) GD GOOSA 2230
Family: Anseriformes > Anatidae

Goosander, Tom Cadwallender

Females and juveniles have a gingery-orange head and grey body, the two sharply delineated, males a glossy green head, blood-red beak, black on the wings and back contrasting with a white body, tinged salmon-pink in the breeding season.

First colonising Scotland in c.1871, Goosanders have dramatically increased in numbers and range, occupying most river catchments in Scotland, Wales and Northern England.

Goosanders are generally found diving for fish and aquatic invertebrates on rivers and lochs, with females moving downstream to estuaries and the coast with ducklings once they have hatched. Goosanders nests in tree cavities and have used larger nest boxes.

Exploring the trends for Goosander

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Goosander population is changing.

trends explorer


Goosander identification is often straightforward. The following article may help when identifying Goosander.

related video

Identifying Goosander and Red-breasted Merganser

Identifying the two large sawbills, Goosander and Red-breasted Merganser, can be pretty straight-forward when confronted with male birds. However, the females, or redheads as they are more often called, can be much more difficult. This video gives useful pointers on how to confidently tell them apart.


Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Goosander, provided by xeno-canto contributors.


Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses

Our interactive online courses are a great way to develop your bird identification skills, whether you're new to the hobby or a competent birder looking to hone your abilities.

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Status and Trends

Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.


This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.



Goosanders were first discovered to have colonised the UK in Perthshire in 1871, and spread from Scotland into northern England in the 1940s (Holloway 1996). Between the first two breeding atlases, the species expanded its range in northern England, and colonised Wales and southwest England. WBS samples became large enough for annual monitoring in 1980, and show sustained population increase, apart from a slight dip in the late 1990s. The BTO's two national surveys of sawbills demonstrated an average increase in population size of 3% per annum between 1987 and 1997 (Rehfisch et al. 1999). There has been considerable further range expansion since 1990 (Balmer et al. 2013). Reasons for the colonisation of the UK, and the subsequent range expansion and population increase, are unknown. The species' winter trend in Britain, comprising British breeders and continental visitors, rose steeply from the late 1960s and peaked in the mid 1990s, before falling back, and now stands at early 1990s levels (WeBS: Frost et al. 2020).

Exploring the trends for Goosander

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Goosander population is changing.

trends explorer


Goosanders breed throughout Scotland, northern England, south to Derbyshire, Wales, the Marches and Devon. In winter, they occupy rivers and a wide range of freshwater bodies throughout Britain, as well as some western and northern estuaries. They are largely absent from upland areas in northern Scotland and from parts of southern and eastern England.

Occupied 10-km squares in UK

European Distribution Map

European Breeding Bird Atlas 2


The winter range of the Goosander has increased by 87% since the 1981–84 Winter Atlas. Gains are apparent throughout and are particularly noticeable in Ireland, Wales and central and southern England.

Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK


Goosanders are present year-round, with higher reporting in winter when they can be seen at large waterbodies.

Weekly occurence of Goosander from BirdTrack
Weekly occurrence patterns (shaded cells) and reporting rates (vertical bars) based on BirdTrack data. Reporting rates give the likelihood of encountering the species each week.


Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.

An overview of year-round movements for the whole of Europe can be seen on the EuroBirdPortal viewer.


View a summary of recoveries in the Online Ringing Report.

Foreign locations of birds ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland

Foreign locations of Goosander ringed or recovered in Britain & Ireland
Encountered in: Winter (Nov-Feb); Spring (Mar-Apr); Summer (May-Jul); Autumn (Aug-Oct)


Lifecycle and body size information about Goosander, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.


Exploring the trends for Goosander

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Goosander population is changing.

trends explorer


View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report

Exploring the trends for Goosander

Our Trends Explorer will also give you the latest insight into how the UK's Goosander population is changing.

trends explorer


Feather measurements and photos on featherbase


For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name

Gaelic: Sìolta
Welsh: Hwyaden Ddanheddog
Catalan: bec de serra gros
Czech: morcák velký
Danish: Stor Skallesluger
Dutch: Grote Zaagbek
Estonian: jääkoskel
Finnish: isokoskelo
French: Grand Harle
German: Gänsesäger
Hungarian: nagy bukó
Icelandic: Gulönd
Irish: Síolta Mhór
Italian: Smergo maggiore
Latvian: liela gaura
Lithuanian: didysis danciasnapis
Norwegian: Laksand
Polish: nuroges
Portuguese: merganso-grande
Slovak: potápac velký
Slovenian: veliki žagar
Spanish: Serreta grande
Swedish: storskrake


Interpretation and scientific publications about Goosander from BTO scientists.


Causes of change

There is little good evidence available regarding the drivers of the breeding population increase in this species in the UK.

Further information on causes of change

No further information is available.

Information about conservation actions

Goosander is currently increasing both its population and its range in the UK and hence specific conservation action is not currently required. The species breeds along rivers so the continuation of policies to maintain and improve water quality are likely to benefit this species. It is a hole nesting species and provision of nest boxes may therefore also help support the Goosander.

Conflict with anglers may become a problem should the population continue to increase. Therefore, appropriate discussions with anglers and other stakeholders may be required in the future to ensure policies are in place which ensure the ongoing conservation of the species.

Links to more information from

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