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Common Goldeneye

Bucephala clangula

Diving Ducks Family

Waterfowl Identification

Male Common Goldeneye
Female Common Goldeneye
Similar Waterfowl:
Barrow's Goldeneye
The common goldeneye, like the Barrow's goldeneye, is named for its brilliant yellow iris. Common goldeneyes fly in small compact clusters, with their wings making a distinctive whistle at every wing beat. Male common goldeneyes have blackish iridescent green heads with a white circular patch between the eye and the base of the bill. The breast, sides, belly, and patch across the secondaries and secondary wing coverts are white. The back, rump, and upper tail coverts are black and the tail is grayish brown. The bill is black and the legs and feet are yellowish. Female common goldeneyes have chocolate brown heads, a whitish neckband, and speckled gray back and sides. The upper wings are brownish black with the middle five secondaries colored white. The bill is blackish becoming yellow near the tip and the legs and feet are yellowish.
Typical Size:
The male and female average 18 inches in length and weigh 2 pounds. They have a wingspan of 28 inches.
The common goldeneye prefer habitats near a pond, lake, or river. They also enjoy woodland areas.
Common goldeneyes breed across the forested areas of Canada, Minnesota, Michigan, Alaska, and the northeastern United States. They are most abundant among lakes of the Canadian boreal forests, especially where lakes or deep marshes have substantial invertebrate populations. They are cavity nesters and have a strong homing tendency, often using the same cavity in successive years. Female common goldeneyes nest in natural tree cavities, abandoned woodpecker holes, or nest-boxes and lay an average of 9 eggs.
Common goldeneyes feed on a wide variety of available animal life. In inland areas during the summer and fall, they feed on aquatic insects, crustaceans and aquatic plants. Along coastal wintering grounds they feed largely on crustaceans, mollusks, small fishes, and some plant material.
Some may move from the interior to the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and south along the Mississippi and Snake Rivers. Along the Atlantic coast, birds winter from Newfoundland to Florida and on the Pacific coast from the Aleutian Chain south to California. The St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes also provide wintering habitat.
Flyway Patterns:
The common goldeneye can be found in all flyways.
Flight Formation:
Small compact high flying flocks. Flight is swift, strong and erratic. Speeds reach 70 MPH.
The males have a piercing SPEER-SPEER and the females have a harsh QUACK.

Common Goldeneye Flight and Plumage Characteristics

This guide will help you recognize Goldeneyes on the wing - it emphasizes their size, shape, and flight characteristics. Goldeneyes are strong fliers that move singly or in small flocks and are often called whistlers because of the distinctive wing-whistling sound in flight. They move south late in the season and most winter on coastal waters and the Great Lakes. Inland, you will find them near rapids and fast water. Hens of both species are similar in appearance. Drakes have a piercing speer-speer - hens a low quack.