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Goosander Mergus 207012 Mike Lane (

Dapper in contrasting head and body plumes (bold in males, more muted in females), the goosander is the largest duck in Scottish waters. Look for it year-round on lochs, rivers and along sheltered coasts.

What to look for

The most striking aspect of a drake goosander’s plumage is the brightness of white feathering over most of his body. This contrasts with a greenish black head and black wings. Females have an orange-red head and dove-grey back. Both sexes have a long, narrow beak. Goosander wings make a whistling noise in flight.

Interesting facts

Goosanders first colonised Scotland in 1871. Since then, they’ve spread to many parts of upland Britain, especially in the west. They nest in tree holes, and ducklings jump to reach the ground and water long before they can fly.

When and where to see

Outside the breeding season, you can often see gatherings of goosanders at the seaward end of rivers, such as at Spey Bay. In spring and early summer, look for small groups of birds courting and displaying on rivers. Females often have crèches of young in tow after mid-summer.


The rivers Tweed and Spey are good for goosanders throughout much of the year. Between autumn and spring, try sea-watching on the Lothian coast at Tyninghame, at Speymouth in Moray, the Inner Moray Firth near Inverness and the along the coast between Aberdeen and Peterhead.

For more information see the RSPB's goosander page.