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Common Goldeneye


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

The black-and-white Common Goldeneye is one of the last ducks to migrate south in fall. It often will winter as far north as open water permits.


Typical Voice

Adult Description

  • Medium-sized diving duck.
  • Chunky body.
  • Large head.
  • Male white with black back and head, and circular white spot on face.

Male Description

Breeding (Alternate) Plumage: Head greenish-black. Bright oval white patch on side of face at base of bill. Sides, breast, belly, and secondaries bright white. Back, wings, and tail black. Short, triangular black bill. Eyes golden yellow.
Nonbreeding (Basic) Plumage: Like female, but with some black tinge at sides.

Female Description

Head chocolate brown. Back, wings, and tail slaty gray. Flanks, belly, and breast white. Eyes pale yellow to white. Short, triangular bill black with yellow tip of variable length.

Immature Description

Immature similar to female. First winter male similar to adult male, but has browner head, gray sides and chest, and smaller and less distinct white oval on face.

Range Map Help

Common Goldeneye Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Male

    Common Goldeneye

  • Female

    Common Goldeneye

  • Male and Female

    Common Goldeneye

    Male and Female
  • Female

    Common Goldeneye

    • © Cornell Lab of Ornithology/Cameron Rognan, Provo, Utah

Similar Species

Similar Species

  • Barrow's Goldeneye very similar. Male Barrow's has crescent-shaped white patch on face, less white on secondaries, more black on the back extending up onto the shoulder, a more rounded, purplish head, and a smaller bill. Female Barrow's has more rounded head, and a smaller bill with more extensive yellow.
  • Male Bufflehead is smaller, with a larger white patch on face that is at the rear of the face, not at the base of the bill.

    Backyard Tips

    Consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on our Attract Birds pages. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.

    You Might Also Like

    What to Watch For: Duck Courtship [video], All About Birds blog, January 20, 2015.



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