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Common Goldeneye

Bucephala clangula

Length: 18 inches Wingspan: 30 inches Seasonality: Winter / Migrant
ID Keys: White oval spot on face, yellow eye, black back and head with white body

Common Goldeneye - Bucephala clangulaCommon Goldeneyes are by far the more common and numerous goldeneye found in the state, with the Barrow's Goldeneye being only a rare visitor.  Hunters often refer to them as "whistlers" due to the tendency of their wings to make a whistling sound in flight.  Historical records indicate the species may have once nested in the state, but no confirmed nesting has occurred in decades. 

Habitat: Nests in tree cavities, so requires trees near water bodies during the summer breeding season.  During migration and in winter, can be found in a wide variety of aquatic habitats, from coastal areas to inland lakes and rivers.

Diet: Insects, crustaceans, small fish, and some vegetation.

Behavior: Common Goldeneyes are diving ducks, with the vast majority of food obtained from underwater.  They will also occasionally feed like a dabbling duck at the water's surface.

Breeding: Currently a non-breeder in the state.

Song: Grating cry from the male during courtship. 

Migration: Winters throughout most of the United States, summers in Canada and Alaska.

Interactive eBird map: Click here for an interactive eBird map of Common Goldeneye sightings

Similar Species: Barrow's Goldeneye.  See Identification Tips.

Conservation Status: Populations appear to be stable.  The species will use nest boxes, and populations increases may have occurred in some locations due to abundant nest boxes.

South Dakota "Hotspot": The species can be found in open water all over the state during migration.  In wintertime, concentrations often are found in the open water below the Missouri River dams.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Common Goldeneye

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Common Goldeneye"

3) Common Goldeneye

Photo Information: January 28th, 2007 - Missouri River near Pierre - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Common Goldeneye photos.


Click on the range map for a higher-resolution view
Common Goldeneye - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common migrant throughout the state.  Common in winter where open water is available, such as below the Missouri River dams.

Additional Common Goldeneye Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
 Common Goldeneye - Bucephala clangulaCommon Goldeneye - Bucephala clangulaCommon Goldeneye - Bucephala clangulaCommon Goldeneye - Bucephala clangula