The goosander is quite an amazing bird…

…although to the casual observer they may seem quite normal. They are a duck belonging to the sawbill family after their long, narrow bills with saw-like teeth which are excellent at gripping fish. Any Welsh readers out there would know that the Welsh for goosander; hwyaden ddanheddog literally translates to serrated duck. They first colonised Scotland in 1871 and have since spread across the entire UK. It is a gregarious bird and forms into flocks of several thousand or more in some parts of Europe.

After the breeding period almost all males disappear. It was a mystery as to where they went for many years but it is now known that the males leave the females in late June and migrate to one specific fjord; Tanafjord in Norway where they undergo a full moult of their flight feathers which takes them around three months. They remain there until the freezing weather approaches and they then return back from late October onwards with larger numbers appearing back in December. The females stay in the country and moult here with the few males that remained.

Female goosander © Gillian Day
Female goosander © Gillian Day

The drake or male goosander has a dark green head, a black back and the rest of his body is bright white, sometimes with a pinkish glow. The female pictured here is grey with a quite vibrant gingery brown head and a white throat.

Both sexes have a long, narrow red bill with a hook at the tip. When in flight their wings make a whistling noise.

Now is the time we often get goosanders appearing on the reserve.  Although we never see them in large numbers we do see them quite regularly outside the visitor centre and along the boardwalk.

Laura – Falls of Clyde Ranger

Preface

…although to the casual observer they may seem quite normal. They are a duck belonging to the sawbill family after their long, narrow bills with saw-like teeth which are excellent …

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