The Common Goldeneye

Bucephala clangula

Here you can see the male mating display. Video thanks to Marc Plomp on Wikimedia Commons.

Did you know?

  • The oldest known common goldeneye was at least 20.4 years old
  • They are fast fliers and their wings make a distinctive whistling sound in flight
  • During mating, when females are nearby, males do a display dance by stretching the head backward against their back and then popping their head forward — chicks love it!
  • Hens readily use nest boxes as a stand-in for naturally occurring tree cavities. Some return to the same box year after year.
  • Their eyes are gray-brown at hatching, then purple-blue, then blue, then green-blue, then pale green-yellow, then finally bright yellow in adult males and pale yellow to white in females.

Quick Facts

Common Name: Common Goldeneye

Scientific name: Bucephala clangula

Size: Common goldeneyes average about 18 in in length and 32 ounces in weight. Males are slightly smaller than females.

Diet: As diving birds, goldeneyes forage underwater. Year-round they eat crustaceans, aquatic insects,

Reproduction: Average age of sexual maturity is 3.5 years for females and 2 years for males. Females incubate 4-12 eggs for 28-32 days. Eggs all hatch within 12 hours of each other.

Life Span: Males can live up to 11 years and females to 12 years.

Image by Tila Monto on Wikimedia Commons

Goldeneye in flight. Image by CheepShot on Wikimedia Commons

Bombs Away!

Goldeneyes lay their eggs in each others’ nests, where a sister, aunt, or cousin will end up raising the chicks. Chicks leave the nest just 1 day after they hatch. The first step can be a doozy, with nests placed 40 feet high. As the female stands at the base of the tree and calls, the chicks jump one after the other and tumble to the ground.


In North America, common goldeneyes spend winters in protected coastal waters of the southern U.S. and Mexico. They breed in the north. The goldeneye’s combined summer and winter ranges essentially blanket the U.S. and Canada.