BIRD OF THE WEEK / WEEK 4: January 22, 2018

© Ducks Unlimited Canada


Common Goldeneye

Species Name

Bucephala clangula


40-51 cm length | 77-83 cm wingspan | 600-1300 gm weight

A medium sized diving duck with a relatively large head.

Very similar in appearance to the Barrow’s goldeneye, the drake has a black back, an iridescent black-green head with a large, white cheek spot, black bill and golden-yellow eyes. The under side is white and the wings are white with diagonal black stripes. Feet and legs are orange. The hen is greyish instead of black with a brown head.

Habitat / Behaviour

Pescavore | Wetlands, rivers, lakes, coasts, ponds

Inhabits ponds, lakes and rivers of boreal forests, breeds in the taiga, and can otherwise be found in sheltered coastal bays or inland waters during migration.

Goldeneyes forage underwater for crustaceans, aquatic insects, molluscs, fish and aquatic plants.


Monogamous | Cavity nester, brood parasite | 5-16 eggs

This cavity nesting duck makes use of the holes left by broken off branches or those made by large woodpeckers such as the pileated of black woodpecker. The male abandons the female within days of the start of incubation. Brood parasitism is common and occurs between other goldeneyes as well as grebes, loons and even starlings.

Related Links

Common Goldeneye or Barrow’s Goldeneye? These two species are very similar looking. So how do you tell the difference? The Barrow’s Goldeneye male has a white body, black back and black head, but unlike the Common Goldeneye, it has more black on its sides, a stubbier bill and crescent-shaped (rather than round) white spot in front of the eye. The female Common Goldeneye can be distinguished from the female Barrow’s Goldeneye by its orange-yellow bill.