A few days ago, I was walking along the boardwalk back to the Visitor Centre when I heard a curious harsh, croaking noise in the undergrowth, by the water. As I came closer, the mystery creature sped away with a flurry of splashes into the river. It was a female goosander, followed by nine large chicks.
Goosanders have their chicks in spring/early summer and usually have between six and seventeen. While they are still small enough, they will ride on their mother’s back. The chicks are too big for that at this time of year and will soon be left to fend for themselves. Luckily, they will already know how to feed themselves, although they will not be ready to fly for a little while longer.
Fish is the main diet of the goosander and, if you are able to get a close look, you will see that their bill (beak) is perfectly designed for catching fish. They have a serrated edge along the inside of their bill, which is why they are known as part of the ‘sawbill’ duck family. Adult goosanders can eat fish as long as 30 centimetres, which is about half as long as the duck’s body!
Unusually for a duck, goosanders nest in trees! Female goosanders will find a cavity high in a tree and lay her eggs there. Just one or two days after hatching, the tiny chicks have a daunting challenge… they must jump from the nest, unaided. This can mean a drop of several metres, but instinct wins out and they jump to follow the calls of their mother, waiting for them on the water.
The first goosanders to breed in the UK arrived in Scotland in 1871 and later spread to England and Wales. Luckily for us, they are a regular sight at Falls of Clyde.
Sarah Cooper – Seasonal Ranger, Scottish Wildlife Trust
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A few days ago, I was walking along the boardwalk back to the Visitor Centre when I heard a curious harsh, croaking noise in the undergrowth, by the water. As …