The Common Goldeneye Ducks of the Pacific Northwest
The common goldeneye is a medium sized sea duck. Their closest relative is the similar barrow’s goldeneye.
The species is named for its golden colored eye. Adult males have a dark head with a greenish gloss and a circular white patch below the eye, a dark back and a white neck and belly. Adult females have a brown head and a mostly grey body. Their legs and feet are orangery yellow.
They breed in the boreal forests across northern Canada, Scandinavia and Russia. They are migratory and most winter in protected coastal waters or open inland waters at more temperate latitudes. Many winter on the south coast.
They are usually quite common in winter around lakes and coastal shores of the pacific northwest. Often the tree cavities that they nest in are made by pileated woodpeckers , the only tree cavity making birds who make a cavity large enough to accommodate a golden eye.
They nest in cavities in large trees. The incubation period is up to 32 days. The female does all the incubating and is abandoned by the male about 1 to 2 weeks into incubation. The young remain in the nest for about 36 hours.
Brood parasitism is quite common both with other common golden eye as well as other duck species. The broods commonly start to mix with other females’ broods as they become more independent. The young are capable of flight at around 65 days of age.
These diving birds forage underwater. Insects being their prey of choice while nesting. Crustaceans are the predominant prey during winter. Locally, fish eggs and aquatic plants can also be important foods.
They may fall prey to various hawks, owls and eagles, while females and their broods have been preyed upon by bears, mink and raccoons. Goldeneye young could be killed by other goldeneye mothers.