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Female Goldeneye Male Goldeneye

Even though the Common Goldeneye has no lips it is called The Whistler, because of the sound the male's wings make in flight. The Common Goldeneye is a medium-sized diving duck, sixteen to twenty inches. It is described as stocky with a large head and small bill. It is aptly named, as both the male and female have light ivory-colored eyes. The male has a round, glossy green head, a dark bill and a round, bright, white cheek-patch. In flight, it shows a lot of white on its sides and wings. The female has a chocolatebrown head and grey-brown body. Her dark bill is tipped with dull yellow.

The Common Goldeneye winters in our area. The males tend to winter farther north than the juveniles and females. The Common Goldeneye dives for crustaceans, mollusks, amphibians and small fish. They also feed on plants and tubers. Along the coast, they will dive for mud crabs and hermit crabs

In mid-April, they return to the coniferous forests of Canada and Alaska. Courtship displays are said to be spectacular. The pair flies above trees with the whistling male following the female. On the water, the drake circles the female and then bends its head all the way back while kicking up a spray of water. The pair searches for a hole in a hardwood tree close to water to nest. The female lays eight to twelve eggs, one a day.

When the chicks are only a few days old, the mother coaxes the little fluff balls to leap from the nest. She then leads them to the safety of the water where, in another two months, they learn to fly.

First published MCAS The Black Oystercatcher February 2013
Male and female Goldeneye photos by Ron LeValley