Common Goldeneye

Bucephala clangula
Common Goldeneye specimens on display in the exhibit "Birds of D.C."

Although the Common Goldeneye’s bright yellow eyes give this species its name, this field mark is only visible at close range. At a distance, male Common Goldeneyes may be identified by their size (20 inches), green head, white body, patchy black-and-white wings, and, most notably, their white cheek patch. Female Common Goldeneyes have brown heads, grayish-brown bodies, and white necks. Duck hunters often refer to this duck as the “whistler” in reference to the sound its wings make in flight. The Common Goldeneye is found across the Northern Hemisphere. In North America, this species breeds across Canada, Alaska, and extreme northern portions of the lower 48. In winter, Goldeneyes migrate to coastal Canada as well as south into the United States and northern Mexico. In the Old World, this species breeds locally in northern Europe, Scandinavia and Russia, wintering south along the coast to the Mediterranean Sea and coastal China. In summer, the Common Goldeneye breeds in freshwater wetlands near forests with tree cavities in which to nest. During the winter, Common Goldeneyes are found primarily in sheltered saltwater estuaries and bays, with smaller concentrations wintering inland on ice-free lakes and rivers. The Common Goldeneye’s diet consists primarily of insects during the summer, eating mollusks, crustaceans, and fish during the winter. One of several species of “diving ducks” in North America, Common Goldeneyes may be observed submerging themselves to feed in the water or on the bottom. In winter, they may also be observed in small flocks on large, slow-moving bodies of water. This species is primarily active during the day.

DC Information

Common migrant and winter resident from October through April in tidewater areas, both in fresh and salt water. Sexes are different.

Specimen Information

The bird on left is a female; here is information about the male on the right.
Date: 12/21/1923
Collected By: Brent M Morgan
Locality:  Neabsco, VA
Sex: Male
Catalog ID: 277179

Distribution Map

distribution map for this species

Bird Vocalizations

Sound from xeno-canto. XC11841 Bucephala clangula (Common Goldeneye)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC11842 Bucephala clangula (Common Goldeneye)

Sound from xeno-canto. XC25730 Bucephala clangula (Common Goldeneye)