Description of the Common Goldeneye


The Common Goldeneye is a diving duck about the size of a Redhead, with a mostly black bill.

Males have white flanks reinforced by mostly white folded wings, black upperparts, and a glossy blackish head with a large, round, white spot between the eye and bill.


common goldeneye


Females have gray flanks and upperparts, a brown head, and a mostly black bill with a yellow tip.


common goldeneye

Seasonal change in appearance

Males in nonbreeding plumage are similar but darker.


The immature Common Goldeneye is similar to the adult female but lacks the yellow bill tip.


Common Goldeneyes inhabit lakes, rivers, and salt bays.


Common Goldeneyes eat crustaceans, fish, mollusks, and aquatic insects, as well as plant material on occasion.


The Common Goldeneye dives to forage.


Common Goldeneyes occur throughout most of the U.S. and Canada, breeding in northernmost portions of the U.S. north to Alaska, and wintering across most of the lower 48 states, as well as the Pacific Coast north to the Aleutians, and the Atlantic Coast north to southeastern Canada. The population is generally stable.

More information:

Bent Life History

Visit the Bent Life History for extensive additional information on the Common Goldeneye.

Wing Shape

The shape of a bird's wing is often an indication of its habits and behavior. Fast flying birds have long, pointed wings. Soaring birds have long, broad wings. Different songbirds will have a slightly different wing shape. Some species look so much alike (Empidonax flycatchers) that scientists sometimes use the length of specific feathers to confirm a species' identification.

Wing images from the University of Puget Sound, Slater Museum of Natural History

Fun Facts

Female Common Goldeneyes tend to winter farther south than males.

The wings of Common Goldeneyes produce a whistling sound in flight, leading to their nickname of "Whistler."


Female Common Goldeneyes give Redhead-like growl, while males produce a whistle.


The Common Goldeneye’s nest is within a large tree cavity or in a nest box.

Number: Usually lay 7-10 eggs.
Color: Olive-green.

Incubation and fledging:
The young hatch at about 29-30 days and leave the nest within a day or two after hatching, but cannot fly for about 8-9 weeks.