Common Goldeneye

Waterfowl Identification

The Common Goldeneye, Bucephala clangula, has a black head with a greenish tinge. It has a steep forehead and a black bill. Below its yellow eyes is a prominent round white spot. Its breast is white as are its flanks. Black and white streaked feathers are on the side of the black back and rump. The hen has a large brown head with a yellow eye, a white collar and a gray body.
Image comparing drake and hen/UISFWS Image comparing drake and hen/UISFWS

These are active, strong-winged fliers moving singly or in small flocks, often high in the air. Distinctive wing-whistling sound in flight has earned the name of whistlers. Goldeneyes generally move south late in the season; most of them winter on coastal waters and the Great Lakes. Inland, they like rapids and fast water.

Barrow's goldeneye, predominantly a Westerner, is less wary than the common goldeneye. Hens of both species are look-alikes.

Length: 19"
Weight: 2 3/4 lbs.

Image comparing fulvous and Black-bellied whistling ducks wings/USFWS


 Distribution Map

Similar Species

In Flight
In flight illustration/USFWS In flight illustration/USFWS In flight illustration/USFWS

Drakes have a piercing speer-speer—hens a low quack. Both are usually quiet.

Last Updated: March 2, 2020