Monday Bird of the Week No.59 – Goldeneye

We continue our run of wintering ducks today with the only duck that is also a James Bond film title – the Goldeneye.

Last week I reflected on the mystery of the Wigeon’s name. There is nothing mysterious in the Goldeneye’s origin though, it’s a clear case of ‘say what you see’. Both sexes have that same, striking yellow eye with the jet black pupil.

The male is an amazing looking bird. An iridescent green head with a white patch by the bill; a head it throws back when displaying in the breeding season. The white body and black back joined by delicate inked lines.

The female, buffy headed with a white collar and grey body.

Even in winter these are a rarer sighting with around 25,000 coming in winter. They are a diving duck and can be frustrating to photograph when active, you will find yourself with lots of images of a tail disappearing into the water.

Unlike most ducks that you will encounter in the UK, the Goldeneye opts to nest in holes in trees. The young fledge long before they can fly, so simply throw themselves out to the ground then follow their parents to the water. Along with the sawbills they are our only native habitual tree-nesters, although Mandarins are increasingly established in the UK and also like a hole in a tree.

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I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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