Common Merganser

on Merganser

Common Merganser - Male

Common Merganser DucksThe Common Merganser, (Goosander in Europe), Mergus merganser, is a large sized duck, that - along with the Smew and the Hooded Merganser - is also known as "sawbill" - so named because of the serrated edges to their bills to help them grip their slippery prey.



They range extends across Europe, North Asia and North America.

Those occurring in North American migrate south in small groups to the United States wherever ice free conditions exist, where they typically settle on ponds, lakes and rivers. Those found on the west coast may remain year-round.

Western European birds are also mostly resident (non-migratory)

Scandinavian and Russian birds also migrate southwards.


Three subspecies are recognized:

    • European Goosander M. m. merganser
    • Central Asian Common Merganser M. m. orientalis
    • American Common Merganser M. m. americanus


The Common Merganser measures about 70 cm in length and has a wingspan of 78 - 94 cm.

The male has a dark green head, while the female's is reddish-brown.


Nesting / Breeding

Common Mergansers typically nest in tree cavities, but may also accept nestboxes.

Relevant Resources

Common Merganser

Common Merganser hen with chicks

Common Merganser in flight

Common Merganser hen with chicks

Common Merganser, (Goosander in Europe), Mergus merganser


Diet / Feeding:

These large fish-eaters have serrated edges to their bills to help them grip their prey. They also eat mussels and shrimps; young birds mainly eat aquatic insects.

Feeding Ducks ...

We all enjoy ducks and many of us offer them food to encourage them to come over and stay around - and it works! Who doesn't like an easy meal!

However, the foods that we traditionally feed them at local ponds are utterly unsuitable for them and are likely to cause health problems down the road. Also, there may be local laws against feeding this species of bird - so it's best to check on that rather than facing consequences at a later stage.

Please note that feeding ducks and geese makes them dependent on humans for food, which can result in starvation and possibly death when those feedings stop. If you decide to feed them, please limit the quantity to make sure that they maintain their natural ability to forage for food themselves - providing, of course, that natural food sources are available.


Species Research by Sibylle Johnson


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