Common merganser

   ›      ›   Common merganser (goosander) - Mergus merganser.

The common merganser (Mergus merganser) is also known as goosander. The common merganser is a large duck belonging to the family Anatidae. The goosander species is distributed in North America, Europe, Asia and Indian Subcontinent.

Taxonomy of Common merganser

  • Scientific Name: Mergus merganser
  • Common Name: Common merganser; goosander;
  • French: Grand Harle German: Gänsesäger Spanish: Serreta grande;
  • Other names: goosander;
  • Family: Anatidae › Anseriformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Species author: Linnaeus, 1758
The three recognized subspecies of goosander species are: M. m. merganser Linnaeus, 1758, M. m. orientalis Gould, 1845 and M. m. americanus Cassin, 1852.

Indian birds - Common merganser - Mergus merganser
Indian birds - Common goosander - Mergus merganser


The goosander species are large birds and the male is larger than the female. The male goosander measures, 60 to 70 cm in length and weighs 1,300 to 2,100 grams. The female goosander weighs 900 to 1,700 grams. The wingspan is 80 to 95 cm. The goosander species have a crest of long head feathers which are rarely erect. In the male goosander, the head is black with an iridescent green gloss is common. The body is white with pinkish tinge. The rump and tail are grey. The females are grey with reddish-brown head and white chin. The bill and legs of goosander species are brownish red.


The Common merganser species inhabit freshwater lakes, pools, rivers and streams surrounded by trees during the breeding season. The wintering goosander species inhabit large lakes, marshes, lagoons, sheltered bays and estuaries.

Feeding habits

The diet of goosander species is predominantly fish. They also feed on frogs, crustaceans, molluscs, small birds and mammals.


The breeding season of goosander species is from March to May. They nest in holes and cavities in the trees. They also readily use large nest boxes. The female goosander lays 8-12 whitish yellow eggs.


The goosander subspecies M. m. merganser breed in Iceland, Central Europe, Northeast China and Japan. They winter on Atlantic coasts of Europe, Central Europe, Iran, China, Korea and Japan. The goosander subspecies M. m. orientalis breed in Central Asia, Western China, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tibet region of China. They winter in Pakistan, North India and Southeast China. The goosander subspecies M. m. americanus breed in Alaska, Newfoundland and North America. They winter in South USA and North Mexico.

Movement Patterns

The northern breeding goosander populations are fully migratory. The goosander species arrive at the breeding grounds during March and May. The wintering migration of goosander species occurs from October through to December.

Status and conservation

The global population of common merganser species is estimated to number between 1,700,000 and 2,400,000 individual birds. These common merganser species have extremely large range and population and are considered least vulnerable. Hunting, habitat degradation and fishing activities in the breeding grounds are the major threats in conservation of goosander species.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated these common merganser species and has listed them as of "Least Concern".

Biological classification of Mergus merganser
Species:M. merganser
Binomial name:Mergus merganser
Distribution:Asia, Europe and North America, Indian Subcontinent;
Feeding habits:crustaceans, molluscs, frogs, fish;
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern

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