The common goldeneye is a medium-sized, large-headed diving duck with a spectacular eponymous yellow eye visible even from a considerable distance. Its forehead slopes into its bill, which often is punctuated with a yellow tip. Males are white on the throat, back and flanks, dark above, and have a brilliant green head featuring a large, white rounded mark on the cheek—a reliable field mark. Female common goldeneyes are gray-bodied with brown heads, and no cheek spot.
Almost entirely silent, common goldeneyes do vocalize when courting (displaying males deliver a jip JEEEEV) or when in distress (some nesting females utter cuk calls). The male common goldeneye’s wings produce a whistling sound during flight, which is amplified during cold weather conditions.
A common sight on large bodies of water, common goldeneyes sometimes gather in large numbers. They are located throughout the United States during winter, both along coastal areas and in inland lakes. Common goldeneyes are diving ducks that seek food in relatively shallow water.
Goldeneyes nest in tree cavities, some of which can be nearly three stories from ground level. That means that when chicks leave their nest—at just one day old—they take a leap of faith from the nest hole to the beckoning female goldeneye below.