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What is a Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)

The Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) is a captivating migratory duck species known for its striking appearance and unique behaviors. As a member of the Anatidae family, this medium-sized diving duck inhabits freshwater lakes, rivers, and coastal regions across North America and Eurasia. The Common Goldeneye plays a vital role in its ecosystem, showcasing the delicate balance between the environment and the organisms living within it.

Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) Overview

Common Goldeneyes are named for their distinctive bright yellow eyes, which stand out against the contrasting colors of their plumage. Males display striking black and white patterns, while females exhibit more subtle brown tones. These birds are skilled divers and are capable of diving up to 20 feet (6 meters) to forage for food. They primarily feed on aquatic insects, crustaceans, and small fish.


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Aves
  • Order: Anseriformes
  • Family: Anatidae
  • Genus: Bucephala
  • Species: Bucephala clangula

Size and Body Description

Common Goldeneyes are medium-sized ducks, with males measuring about 18-22 inches (45-56 cm) in length and weighing between 1.5 to 3.3 pounds (700-1500 grams), while females are slightly smaller. The males exhibit a striking black-and-white plumage, with a greenish-black head, bright yellow eyes, and a round white patch between the eye and the base of the bill. Females have a more subdued appearance, with a chocolate-brown head and grayish body.


As diving ducks, Common Goldeneyes primarily feed on aquatic insects, crustaceans, and small fish, though their diet may also include mollusks and some plant material. They dive underwater to capture their prey, using their strong legs and webbed feet to propel themselves through the water.


Common Goldeneyes breed in the boreal forests and northern taiga regions, nesting in tree cavities or nest boxes. The female lays a clutch of 6 to 14 eggs and incubates them for approximately 28 to 32 days. After hatching, the chicks leave the nest within 24 to 36 hours and are led by the female to the nearest body of water. The young are capable of diving and feeding themselves, but they remain under the watchful eye of the female until they fledge at around 55 to 65 days old.

Where Found

Common Goldeneyes are found across North America and Eurasia. In North America, they breed in the boreal forests and northern taiga regions, stretching from Alaska to Newfoundland and south to the northern United States. During the winter months, they migrate to coastal areas and larger inland bodies of water throughout the United States and southern Canada.

How Long do Common Goldeneyes Live

The average lifespan of a Common Goldeneye in the wild is around 10 to 15 years. However, many individuals face numerous threats during their lives, such as habitat loss, predation, and hunting, which can significantly impact their overall survival rates.

The Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) is a fascinating bird species that captures the attention of birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike.

Additional Photos

What is a Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
The common goldeneye (Bucephala clangula), Duck swimming on the lake in the taiga
What is a Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula)
Portrait of a common goldeneye duck (bucephala clangula) swimming in the water