Medium-sized diving duck 16” to 20” long with an average wingspan of 31”. Drakes have a black back with white plumage below; the head is dark with a green iridescent shine and a round white spot under each eye. The feet are orange. Hens are gray with a white collar, cocoa-brown head, and a distinctive yellow tip on the bill. Both sexes have a large white wing patch that is easily seen when the duck takes to the air.
Open areas of tidal rivers and inlets.
After its breeding season in Alaska, Canada and the high plains of the U.S. the common goldeneye typically migrates to the Chesapeake in late summer.
Mollusks such as small clams, aquatic plants.
Drakes voice a high, shrill cheep; hens quack. Listen to a sample (Requires RealPlayer)
The feathers of the common goldeneye’s wings are arranged in such a way that the wings make a whistling sound as the duck flies—which is why hunters sometimes refer to them as “whistlers.” Outside the breeding season males and females typically stay in separate flocks, and may even overwinter in different locations.
The decoy pictured is from the collection of the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art and was photographed by Middleton Evans. Waterfowl sounds are courtesy of the Macaulay Lab of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.