Common Goldeneye

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Common Name: Common Goldeneye
Scientific Name: Bucephala clangula

Size: 15.7-20.1 inches (40-51 cm); Wingspan: 30.3-32.7 inches (77-83 cm)

Habitat: Worldwide; breeds in taiga. They are found in the boreal forests of Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, Russia, Mongolia, northern China, Canada, Alaska and northern USA. Its wintering range is equally broad, encompassing the coast of northern Europe including inland United Kingdom, scattered coastal and inland water bodies in south-eastern Europe (e.g. Turkey) and central Asia, the coasts of eastern China, Korea, Japan and the Kamchatkha Peninsula (Russia), the Pacific coast of Canada and the Alaskan coast and inland USA. They have been recorded as a vagrant in various parts of the Indian Subcontinent.

They breed along lakes and rivers bordered by forest. They winter primarily in marine waters, bays and harbors, as well as in large inland lakes and rivers.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: 2,500,000-4,600,000 individuals. Populations appear stable or increasing in some areas. The species is threatened by wetland degradation and loss in North America and is susceptible to atmospheric acid deposition (e.g. acid rain) throughout a large part of its breeding range. The main threat to the species in its wintering range is pollution (e.g. from coastal oil spills or other pollutants from sewage outfalls).

The Common Goldeneye is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.

Diet: Crustaceans, aquatic insects and mollusks. Insects are the predominant prey while nesting and crustaceans are the predominant prey during migration and winter. Locally, fish eggs and aquatic plants can be important foods.

These diving birds forage underwater.

Nesting: The species gets its name for its distinctive eye color. Adult males have a dark head with a greenish gloss and a circular white patch below the eye, a dark back and a white neck and belly.

Adult females have a brown head and a mostly grey body. Their legs and feet are orange-yellow. Immatures are similar to females and first winter males similar to the adult male, but they have a browner head, gray sides and chest, and smaller and less distinct white oval on face.

Goldeneyes are tree nesters, using natural tree cavities made from broken limbs or reusing nests created by Pileated Woodpeckers or Black Woodpeckers (the only woodpeckers that make a cavity large enough to normally accommodate a goldeneye). The female lays 5-16 eggs. She does all the incubating and is abandoned by the male about 1 to 2 weeks into incubation. The incubation period ranges from 28 to 32 days. The young remain in the nest for about 24–36 hours.

Brood parasitism is quite common both with other Common Goldeneyes, as well as other duck species, and even Tree Swallow and European Starling eggs have been found mixed with goldeneye eggs.

The broods commonly start to mix with other females' broods as they become more independent. Goldeneye young have been known to be competitively killed by other goldeneye mothers, Common Loons and Red-necked Grebes. The young are capable of flight at 55–65 days of age.

Cool Facts: The eyes of a Common Goldeneye are gray-brown at hatching. They turn purple-blue, then blue, then green-blue as they age. By five months of age they have become clear pale green-yellow. The eyes will be bright yellow in adult males and pale yellow to white in females.

After the ducklings leave the nest they can feed themselves and require only protection. Some females abandon their broods soon after hatching, and the young will join another female's brood. Such mixed broods, known as "creches," may also occur when a female loses some ducklings after a territorial fight with another female. Young scatter and mix when females fight, and not all of them get back to their mother when the fight ends. Some or all of the ducklings may be transferred to one brood, usually that of the territory owner.

Found in Songbird Remix Waterfowl Volume II: Diving and Sea Ducks

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