COMMON GOLDENEYE (Bucephala clangula)
DESCRIPTION: The Common Goldeneye is a medium-sized diving duck. The breeding male has a dark iridescent green head, a black back and a black bill. There is a white patch behind the bill. The undersides are white. The female has a brown head and a grey body, and its bill is black with an orange tip. Both sexes have black wings except for the secondaries, which are white. They also have yellow eyes and orange legs. The goldeneye head is quite large for the size of the body (hence the Latin name). These ducks are around 50 cm (20 inches) long.
NAME: The English name relates to the yellow iris of this duck. The Latin genus name ‘Bucephala’ means ‘bull’ and ‘head’, in reference to the large had of this species. As for the Latin species name ‘clangula’, it derives from ‘clangor’ which means ‘noise’, in reference to the sound made by this bird’s wings.
HABITAT: In the summer: taiga and boreal forest wetlands such as lakes, rivers and streams. In addition for the winter: coastal areas.
DIET: Aquatic insects, crustaceans and other invertebrates; also some vegetation.
NESTING: Common goldeneyes nest in large tree holes, but also in nest boxes. Around ten green eggs are laid, which are incubated by the female. She cares for the ducklings, but these can feed themselves.
DISTRIBUTION: This duck breeds in the boreal regions of Canada and Alaska, and the taiga of Eurasia. It winters south of that range for most of the USA, and also in China, Japan and the UK.
ON PEI: The common goldeneye does not breed on Prince Edward Island, but is commonly seen every season except summer, when sightings are only occasional.
CONSERVATION: Common goldeneyes are legally hunted within limits to preserve the population. Their numbers appear stable and they are not considered at risk currently. However some forestry practices such as removing large trees might deprive these ducks of nesting locations. Providing nest boxes helps them.
SIMILAR SPECIES: Barrow’s Goldeneye, Bufflehead
https://www.mba-aom.ca/jsp/toc.jsp (Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas)
https://nature.mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/common-goldeneye (Missouri Department of Conservation)
In this video below of a common goldeneye pair, the male has an interesting way of swimming: