Common Goldeneye Duck       Bucephala clangula



Commonly seen in the shallow bays and inlets of Puget Sound during the winter is the diving duck called a Common Goldeneye.  It is a medium sized bird with males having prominent while sides and a round white mark on the cheek.  It's close cousin, the Barrow's Goldeneye, is very similar except that it's white cheek mark is comma shaped and the white on it's flank is broken up.  They are often seen together during the winter season.  They hybridize regularly.  The females are more darkly colored with reddish-brown heads lacking white cheek markings.


The common goldeneye ranges throughout north America, but mainly breeds in the northern states and Canada.  It seeks freshwater lakes and small ponds to spend the summer.  Nests are placed in tree cavities near water. When good nesting sites are few, females without a nest may lay their eggs in with those of a nest owner.  This can result in up to 30 some eggs in a nest.  Young leave the nest after 24 to 42 hours and head for the closest water.


In saltwater the birds feed on crustaceans and mollusks they grab while diving to the bottom.  During the summer they feed on aquatic insects, crayfish, small fish and some aquatic vegetation.


Like other marine birds, these species are vulnerable to oil spills from marine accidents or stormwater discharges which can coat their feathers resulting in a loss of insulation and waterproofing leading to death.  For more information on oil spills go to the Washington Department of Ecology at http://www.ecy.wa.gov/programs/spills/spills.html.