Living Bird Magazine
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The male Common Goldeneye adds a bright note to winter days with its radiant amber eye, glistening green-black head, and crisp black-and-white body and wings. The female has a chocolate brown head with the same bright eye that gives this species its name. These distinctively shaped, large-headed ducks dive for their food, eating mostly aquatic invertebrates and fish. They nest in tree cavities in the boreal forest of Canada and Alaska; look for them on large rivers, lakes, and Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts in winter.More ID Info
Common Goldeneyes breed in the boreal forest, so winter is the best time for most people in North America to see them. Look for them in flocks on fairly large bodies of water. Most goldeneyes winter on protected coastal waters, but you can still find them fairly readily on inland lakes as well. In fall they are late migrants, often coming through just as lakes are freezing. Look for their distinctively shaped heads and the bright yellow eye that is visible from a surprisingly long way off. The birds may abruptly disappear as they dive for food, but keep your eye on them as they tend to surface after about a minute or so.
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.