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Common Goldeneye, Chris Charlesworth
Photo © Chris Charlesworth

Photo: Chris Charlesworth
Breeding evidence - Common Goldeneye
Breeding evidence
Probability of observation - Common Goldeneye
Probability of observation
Elevation plot - Common Goldeneye
Elevation plot

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Common Goldeneye
Bucephala clangula
Landscape associations:

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
8 - 2189 m
Conserv. status:
Not at risk
Global importance
of B.C. population:
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
171 66 147 43
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
Brit. Col.1970 - 2012 -0.487 (-3.82 - 3.14)Low
Canada1970 - 2012 0.219 (-1.66 - 1.84)Medium

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
0.070.03 0.10.12 0.19
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
0.070.33 0.020.53 1.25
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains
0.090.11 0.1  0.09

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
0.11 0.07 
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce
0.22 0.110.08

Characteristics and Range The Common Goldeneye is one of the first diving ducks to arrive in the interior in spring and the last to migrate south in fall. Often considered a harbinger of spring, the distinctive whistling noise of its wings in flight has given it the nickname of "whistler", and announces its arrival at the first patches of open water at ice break-up. It breeds mostly throughout forested areas across northern North America and northern Eurasia; it winters on coasts and large inland freshwater bodies, in North America as far south as northern Mexico (Eadie et al. 1995). In British Columbia, it generally winters along nearshore coastal areas and will winter as far north as open water permits in the interior (Campbell et al. 1990).

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat The Common Goldeneye breeds throughout British Columbia except for Haida Gwaii where breeding is suspected, but not confirmed. There are few nesting records in coastal areas. Breeding was not known from Vancouver Island when The Birds of British Columbia was published in 1990, but is confirmed during the Atlas at two locations and probable in two others. Atlas work shows that the similar Barrow's Goldeneye is generally a more frequently encountered breeder in the interior, except in the Peace River lowlands and the Southern Rocky Mountain Trench. The Probability of Observation model confirms that these two areas, in the Boreal Plains and Southern Interior Mountains ecoprovinces, are areas where the Common Goldeneye is more likely to be found.

In British Columbia, Common Goldeneye nests in mature, wooded margins along lakes, rivers, floodplains, sloughs, ponds and creeks (Campbell et al. 1990). Lakes with poor productivity and without fish are often selected. Common Goldeneye nests in old Pileated Woodpecker nest holes, nest boxes, and natural cavities often found in mature Black Cottonwood (Populus trichocarpa) and Douglas-fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). In British Columbia, all nests were within 90 m of the water's edge (Campbell et al. 1990), but they are known to breed up to 1.3 km away from water (Eadie et al. 1995).

Conservation and Recommendations Commercial logging of mature and older forests near waterbodies likely impacts the amount and quality of Common Goldeneye nesting habitat. Additionally, firewood collection that targets standing dead trees that may have potential nesting cavities may also impact local breeding habitat. The impacts of the recent Mountain Pine Beetle (Dendroctonus ponderosae) infestation and the subsequent harvesting of infected mature stands should be studied to determine if there are any negative impacts on local Common Goldeneye breeding populations.

Paul Chytyk and David F. Fraser

Recommended citation: Chytyk, P. and Fraser, D.F. 2015. Common Goldeneye in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. [14 Apr 2024]

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