Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser)

The Common Mergansers, (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.

Common Merganser - Male

Common Merganser Ducks


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
Photo of author

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

We love to hear from our readers. If you have any questions or if you want to get in touch with us, you can find our contact details on our About Us page.

Leave a Comment