The Goosander is 58-72 cm (23-28 in) long with a 78-97 cm (31-38 in) wingspan, and a weight of 0.9-2.1 kg. Males average slightly larger than females. It has a crest of longer head feathers, but these usually lie smoothly rounded behind the head. Breeding males are easily distinguished, the body is white with a variable salmon-pink tinge, the head black with an iridescent green gloss, the rump and tail are grey, and the wings are black and white in colour. Adults in non-breeding plumage, are largely grey, with a reddish-brown head, white chin, and white secondary feathers on the wing. The bill and legs are red to brownish-red, brightest on adult males, dullest on juveniles.

Habitat and Distribution

Goosanders are partial migrants. Birds move away from areas where rivers and major lakes freeze in the winter. Eastern North American birds move south in small groups to the United States wherever ice free conditions exist on lakes and rivers. They are permanent residents in the Pacific coast. Scandinavian and Russian birds also migrate southwards, but western European birds, and a few in Japan, are largely resident. They are birds of rivers, lakes and forested areas.


They use their bills to grip on aquatic prey such as molluscs, crustaceans, worms, insect larvae, and amphibians. Sometimes they feed on small mammals and some birds.


Nesting is normally in a tree cavity, thus it requires mature forest as its breeding habitat. They also readily use large nest boxes where provided, requiring an entrance hole 15 cm diameter. The female lays 6-17 (most often 8-12) white to yellowish eggs, and raises one brood in a season. The ducklings are taken by their mother in her bill to rivers or lakes immediately after hatching, where they feed on freshwater invertebrates and small fish fry. They fledge when 60-70 days old.

Calls and Songs

During breeding they make a soft plaintive whistle.