Rosamond Gifford Zoo

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American Common Goldeneye

Bucephala clangula

Common Goldeneyes are medium-sized, migratory diving ducks with triangular heads and sloping bills. Males are slightly larger than females and have a brilliant greenish-black head with a distinctive white spot behind their black bill. The male’s chest, sides, and belly, and secondary feathers are white, while his back, wings, and tail are black. Females have more muted plumage.

Range & Habitat

Common goldeneyes breed in the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska. During breeding season they can be found on northern lakes and rivers surrounded by mature trees where nest cavities may be found. In winter they migrate to coastal marine and estuarine habitats and large, interior lakes and rivers.


In the Wild:  crustaceans, small fish, marine worms, frogs, and leeches as well as plant material like pondweeds.

At the Zoo: humanely sourced fish, krill and waterfowl grain mix.



Life Span

In the Wild: 11-12 years
In Human Care: 18 years

Fun Facts about the American Common Goldeneye

  •  The Common goldeneye gets its name from its golden yellow eyes. 
  •  Their ability to fly up to 44 mph with 9 wingbeats per second earned them the nickname “Whistlers” because their wings make a whistling sound when they fly.
  •   When feeding, a flock of Common goldeneyes may dive all at the same time.
  •  These birds can stay underwater for up to 55 seconds.


BirdLife International (2021) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 26/02/2021.

Chesapeake Bay Program (Ed.). (2021). Common Goldeneye. Retrieved February 26, 2021, from

Cornell University (Ed.). (2019). Common Goldeneye. Retrieved February 25, 2021, from

Dewey, T. 2009. "Bucephala clangula" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 26, 2021 at


Updated June 13, 2023
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