Bucephala clangula (Linnaeus, 1758)
Family: Anseriformes > Anatidae
This striking duck, with its piercing eye and large rounded head, was first recorded nesting here in the 1970s, since when a relatively small but expanding breeding population has become established.
Goldeneye use tree cavities and nest boxes for breeding, our current population centred on northern Scotland but with isolated records from England. The species a range of freshwater habitats for breeding.
Wintering birds join our breeders from October and are thought to be mostly birds from the Scandinavian breeding population. Individuals can be seen widely in winter, occupying both coastal and inland sites, sometimes in large numbers (e.g. 500 plus).
Select a topic for more facts and statistics about the Goldeneye
Goldeneye identification is usually straightforward.
Listen to example recordings of the main vocalisations of Goldeneye, provided by xeno-canto contributors.
Develop your bird ID skills with our training courses
Our interactive online courses are a great way to develop your bird identification skills, whether you're new to the hobby or a competent birder looking to hone your abilities.Browse training courses
Status and Trends
Population size and trends and patterns of distribution based on BTO surveys and atlases with data collected by BTO volunteers.
This species can be found on the following statutory and conservation listings and schedules.
The Goldeneye has increased substantially from a single-figure breeding population in the 1970s (Eaton et al. 2021). The current population is thought to be around 200 pairs (APEP4), with the majority of the UK population breeding in Scotland, but the more recent trend has not been measured after monitoring of the full Scottish population ceased in 2010 (Eaton et al. 2021)
|UK winter population||-55% decrease (1995/96 to 2020/21)|
In winter, Goldeneyes are found in coastal areas and a wide variety of freshwater habitats throughout Scotland and northern England, with the exception of some upland areas. Farther south, in England, Wales and Ireland, the distribution is patchier and centred on suitable coastal areas, river valleys and wetland networks. Records of confirmed breeding are concentrated in Strathspey and around the Great Glen in Inverness-shire, along the River Dee in Aberdeenshire, and around Loch Tay in Perthshire. Elsewhere, the only confirmed breeding records are from Northumberland and Avon.
Occupied 10-km squares in UK
|No. occupied in breeding season||52|
|% occupied in breeding season||1.7|
|No. occupied in winter||1740|
|% occupied in winter||58|
European Distribution Map
The number of 10-km squares with probable or confirmed breeding by Goldeneyes increased from 13 to 38 between the 1988–91 and 2008–11 breeding atlases, and includes colonisation of Perthshire and Aberdeenshire.
Change in occupied 10-km squares in the UK
|% change in range in breeding season (1968–72 to 2008–11)||+173.7%|
|% change in range in winter (1981–84 to 2007–11)||--1%|
Goldeneyes are predominantly winter visitors, arriving gradually through September and October, departing through April.
Information about movement and migration based on online bird portals (e.g. BirdTrack), Ringing schemes and tracking studies.
Lifecycle and body size information about Goldeneye, including statistics on nesting, eggs and lifespan based on BTO ringing and nest recording data.
View number ringed each year in the Online Ringing Report
|Maximum Age from Ringing||12 years 0 months 18 days (set in 2008)|
|Typical Lifespan||6 years with breeding typically at 2 year|
|Adult Survival||0.772±0.034 ( Female: 0.772±0.034)|
|Ring size||G (breeding females F)|
|Field Codes||2-letter: GN | 5-letter code: GOLDE | Euring: 2180|
For information in another language (where available) click on a linked name
Interpretation and scientific publications about Goldeneye from BTO scientists.
Causes of change
The drivers behind the initial colonisation of Scotland are unclear but the subsequent increases may have been aided by the provision of nest boxes within its core range in Scotland (Dennis & Dow 1984). Predation by Pine Martens has been identified as the most important factor affecting breeding success (Langridge 1996) and there are also concerns about the possible impact of the expanding non-native Mandarin Duck population through competition for nest sites (Cosgrove 2003). There is currently no evidence of any negative impact on the population from these or other factors although the population trend has not been monitored since 2010.
Would you like to search for another species?