Fr: Garrot à œil d’or
Ang: Common Goldeneye
All: Schellente
Esp: Porrón Osculado
Ita: Quattrocchi
Nd: Brilduiker
Sd: Knipa


John Anderson
John Anderson Photo Galleries

Jean Michel Fenerole
Photos d’Oiseaux du monde

Steve Garvie
RAINBIRDER Photo galleries & Flickr Rainbirder

Tom Grey
Tom Grey's Bird Pictures & Tom Grey's Bird Pictures 2

Otto Plantema
Trips around the world

Text by Nicole Bouglouan


HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD vol 1 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions - ISBN: 8487334105


THE COMPLETE BOOK OF BRITISH BIRDS – Written by “Royal Society for the Protection of Birds” experts - Préface de Magnus Magnusson - Michael Cady- Rob Hume Editors - ISBN: 0749509112  

GUIDE DES CANARDS, DES OIES ET DES CYGNES – de Steve Madge - Delachaux et Niestlé - ISBN: 2603013769

BIRDS OF THE MIDDLE EAST by R.F. Porter, S. Christensen, P Schiermacker-Ansen C.Helm - ISBN: 0713670169

Avibase (Denis Lepage)

BirdLife International

HBW Alive


All About Birds (Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

ARKive (Christopher Parsons)

Animal Diversity Web (University of Michigan Museum of Zoology)

Bird Web (Seattle Audubon Society)

What Bird-The ultimate Bird Guide (Mitchell Waite)

Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia

Ducks Unlimited - Common Goldeneye

Boreal Birds


Home page

Page Anseriformes

Summary cards


Common Goldeneye
Bucephala clangula

Anseriformes Order – Anatidae Family

The Common Goldeneye is included in the tribe Mergini, within the large family Anatidae. This beautiful duck is often seen in flocks and even in large concentrations, but usually of their own species. It nests in cavities and may use nest boxes if available. It breeds in freshwater areas, but during winter, it frequents mostly marine waters and coastal habitats.
The Common Goldeneye has wide range and two subspecies are recognized, one in Eurasia and the other in North America. Both are migratory and winter southwards in more temperate regions, but they usually move only short to medium distances.
The population is currently stable, with a small increase in North America.

Length: 42-50 cm
Wingspan: 65-80 cm
Weight: M: 890-1400 g – F: 500-1130 g

Subspecies B.c. Americana:
Length: M: 45-51 cm – F: 40-50 cm

The Common Goldeneye is a compact, short-necked diving duck. The adult male in breeding plumage has black back, rump and uppertail-coverts. The tail is greyish-brown. Lower neck, upper mantle, breast sides and underparts are white. The inner scapulars are black, whereas the outer scapulars are white with black fringes. Wing-coverts, tertials and primaries are black.

The almost triangular-shaped head and the upper neck are black with green gloss. There is a white circular patch between the eye and the base of the bill.
The bill is black. The eyes are bright yellow to gold, giving the bird its name. Legs and feet are orange-yellow with blackish webs.
The male in eclipse resembles female, but it has darker brown head and upper neck with black tinge.

The female in breeding plumage has chocolate-brown head and whitish neck band, sometimes indistinct. Body sides and breast are greyish-brown with white-tipped feathers. Back, wings and tail are slaty-grey with white-edged feathers, but the wing pattern resembles that of male.
The bill is black with orange-yellow tip and black nail. The eyes are paler yellow to white. Legs and feet are orange yellow with black webs.
The female in eclipse has duller brown head and upper neck.  

The juvenile resembles female with darker upperwing-coverts, brown eyes are dark grey bill.

The Common Goldeneye is closely related to Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica). They differ by the shape of the white head patch, circular in the first one, and crescent-shaped in the second one.  

The Common Goldeneye has two recognized subspecies.
B.c. clangula is found in Eurasia. It breeds in Scandinavia and C Europe, and E through Russia and N Mongolia to N China and Kamchatka.
It winters in Britain, C and SE Europe and C Asia to E China, Korea, Japan and Kamchatka.

B.c. Americana is found in North America. It breeds from Alaska E to Newfoundland.
It winters from Aleutian Islands and Newfoundland, S throughout North America to C Baja California, Durango and Tamaulipas in Mexico.
This race is larger overall, with thicker bill than nominate.

The Common Goldeneye breeds near freshwater lakes, pools and rivers surrounded by coniferous forests. Outside the breeding season, it can be seen in coastal habitats including estuaries, salt bays, coastal lagoons and harbours. It also frequents inland lakes and rivers remaining free of ice.

The Common Goldeneye is usually silent except during the courtship displays. The male gives several whistling and grating notes. During the “head-tossing” display, it gives a rasping “be-beeezh” followed by a low rattle. The female utters a harsh “berr” or “graa”. These calls are also given when the bird is flushed.
During the flight, both male and female produce vibrant whistling sounds with their wings. This sound can be heard one kilometre away, and it is loudest in male.  

The Common Goldeneye feeds on a variety of aquatic preys including numerous crustaceans such as shrimps, crabs, crayfish, amphipods, and also molluscs (blue mussels and others), small fish, marine worms, frogs and leeches. During summer, it also consumes some plant materials such as pondweeds, seeds and roots.
The diet varies according to the season and the habitat.

The Common Goldeneye feeds mainly by diving and forages underwater at depths of up to 4 metres. It may occasionally dabble and upend in shallower waters, but this behaviour in mostly that of juveniles.

At the beginning of the breeding season, the males display around one female. The male throws its head far back while the bill is pointed upwards. At this moment, we can hear a shrill call. It also performs ritualized head-pumping and bobbing. Short flights are also performed with exaggerated take-off and landing.

The pair forms usually in late winter, during the return migration and at the arrival on the breeding grounds. They are seasonally monogamous.

The Common Goldeneye is migratory, but it moves over short to medium distances or performs some dispersal to nearby open waters. In Europe, they migrate between August and December. The spring movements start in mid-February to late March, with arrivals in N Europe by late April/early May. In E Asia, the wintering period occurs from November to March.   

The Common Goldeneye has swift, direct flight with strong wingbeats. It runs over water to take off. The fast wingbeats create noticeable whistling sounds in males. It flies low over water in short distance flight and higher over longer distances.  

The breeding season starts in April/May in Europe, and as early as March in North America (Minnesota), mostly first half of April in British Columbia, Ontario and New Brunswick, and mid-May in NW Territories.
This species produces a single brood per year, and they nest as isolated pairs.
The male is territorial and defends the area against intruders, whereas the female defends the territory where her brood is foraging and feeding. She shows high site fidelity.

The Common Goldeneye nests in hollows in trees and other cavities, sometimes abandoned by woodpeckers. It also uses nest boxes, rock cavities or chimneys, up to 150 metres from water, but usually closer to the shores.
The nest is a depression in wood chips inside a cavity, lined with down. It is placed between 10 and 15 metres above the ground.

The female lays 8-11 greenish eggs and incubates alone during about one month. The male leaves her and the site after the laying for moulting in large flocks with other males. The chicks are precocial and are able to feed themselves when they leave the nest. The female abandons them soon after hatching and they often join crèches. They fledge 55-65 days after hatching, and they are sexually mature at two years old.

The Common Goldeneye has wide range, but it is threatened by degradation of wetlands and habitat loss in North America, oil pollution and other pollutants from sewage outfalls. The species also suffers from hunting pressure in some parts of the range. The main predators are mammals, owls, hawks and eagles.
The global population was estimated to number 2,500,000/4,600,000 individuals in 2006. This population is suspected to be stable, with a small increase in North America.
The Common Goldeneye is currently evaluated as Least Concern.

Race B.c. americana
Race B.c. americana

Race B.c. americana

First winter male

Race B.c. americana
Race B.c. americana
Race B.c. americana
Race B.c. americana
Race B.c. americana