Welcome to the Birds of North America Online!
Welcome to BNA Online, the leading source of life history information for North American breeding birds. This free, courtesy preview is just the first of 14 articles that provide detailed life history information including Distribution, Migration, Habitat, Food Habits, Sounds, Behavior and Breeding. Written by acknowledged experts on each species, there is also a comprehensive bibliography of published research on the species.
A subscription is needed to access the remaining articles for this and any other species. Subscription rates start as low as $5 USD for 30 days of complete access to the resource. To subscribe, please visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology E-Store.
If you are already a current subscriber, you will need to sign in with your login information to access BNA normally.
Subscriptions are available for as little as $5 for 30 days of full access! If you would like to subscribe to BNA Online, just visit the Cornell Lab of Ornithology E-Store.
The Common Goldeneye is a cold-hardy, medium-sized diving duck that breeds worldwide in northern boreal forests. In flight its wings make a distinctive whistling sound, giving rise to its colloquial name, “whistler.” This species readily nests in boxes, facilitating studies of its reproductive biology and management. It is an aggressive and territorial duck and often dominates interactions with competitor species for food and nest sites. Its spectacular courtship displays probably evolved from aggressive postures; they have been intensively studied.
In North America this species typically breeds across forested regions of Canada and winters along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts. During the breeding season, it is primarily insectivorous and prefers lakes (often fishless) with abundant aquatic invertebrates. Fish, crustaceans, and mollusks become a more important part of the diet in winter. Females breed in their second year and make one annual nesting attempt. They usually return year after year to the same nest site; they also commonly lay their eggs in the nests of conspecifics or other cavity-nesting ducks.
Despite threats from acid precipitation, organochlorine contaminants, and deforestation, Common Goldeneye populations remain relatively stable. Nevertheless, this species’ nesting habitat requirements and sensitivity to prey quality and availability make it a potentially suitable species with which to monitor the effects of environmental perturbation on boreal wildlife.