Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Sawbill

First recorded in Britain in 1662 and with a breeding population of around 3500 pairs, the Goosander (Mergus merganser) is in no way rare or endangered. Nevertheless, it is always a treat when small flocks of these ducks turn up, chiefly during the winter. This morning as we walked around Osborne's Pond, a group of about 24 Goosanders were bobbing about on the water.
The Goosander is a large duck, one of the so-called Sawbills on account of its serrated bill edges which it utilises when catching fish. In the Male bird, this bill is a rich red colour, somewhat less obviously red in the female.
The group of male birds above show what an elegant bird this is. It has a white body with black markings on the back and wings and a beautiful head which is actually a glossy bottle-green colour when viewed in good light.
The female, while in no way dowdy, is nevertheless slightly less showy than the male, looking a rather more grey bodied and with a chestnut brown head.
The winter population of Britain is boosted by arrivals from mainland Europe to around 12,000 individuals which is why they are more often seen at this time of year. In the wild, they normally live to around 7 years of age with the longevity record set by one ringed individual in 1984 which was 9 years, 6 months and 28 days.
What a treat for a chilly November morning!
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