Goldeneye Duck Common to Ontario Waters

The common Goldeneye is a diving duck which inhabits all of Ontario's, and most of Canada's forests.

Members of the diving duck family include the bufflehead, canvas-back, redhead, oldsquaw, merganser, ring-necked duck and scaup, all of which are found in Ontario.

Like all diving ducks the Goldeneye must run along the surface of the water to become airborne. Their legs are situated towards the rear of their body unlike puddle ducks, such as the mallard, whose legs are located in the centre of its body. Consequently this is one adaptation that enables puddle ducks to lake flight directly off the water.

Goldeneyes are easily distinguishable in flight since their wings whistle loudly as they fly overhead. They are a common sight on woodland ponds and lakes where their courtship ritual takes place. The eyes of the golden eye are truly a gold color; the male's color more vibrant than the female's.

After mating the hen chooses her nest site, often in a tree hole high above the ground. Sometimes these nests are as high up as 15 metres (50 feet). She insulates the nest with feathers and down and lays 8-11 eggs.

Nest location is effective at deterring many predators from getting at the eggs or the newly hatched chicks.  However the nest height is not so great when it comes time for the young to leave because it's a long way down.

Soon after hatching the chicks are able lo eat, walk, peep and hop, but food in the nest is somewhat limited to non-existent. The young are therefore forced to leap down to the forest floor by the cajoling clucks from the mother hen.  One after another, the tiny chicks plummet to the ground. Luckily their fall is usually broken by grass, sedges and other cushiony materials down below.

Now, begins one of the toughest and most dangerous journeys these young ducks will ever embark upon. They must follow their mother to the closest pond or lake to find food. At this stage they are completely vulnerable to attack by predators on the ground and in the air.  Even on reaching water, the chicks are far from being safe.

Bass, pike, muskies and even snapping turtles will make a meal of a chick if they see it moving about on the water's surface. Even as adults some will not survive hunting season but enough always survive to perpetuate the species.

The common goldeneye, buce-phala clangula, is approximately 41-53 cm. (16-21inches) from the tip of the bill to the tail. These attractive ducks can be seen in spring on just about any portion of open water. They can often be spotted mixed in amongst other duck species.



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