The goldeneye is widely and aptly called the "whistler" or "whistlewing," due to the high pitched, vibrant swishing sounds made by its wings during flight. It is widely distributed across our land and into Canada, being scarce in the Southwest. Its nearest relative is the Barrow's, a bird with very similar markings.
The goldeneye sports a shiny blue-green head, supported by a white neck and breast. The "eye" is a white circular spot located below the eye and just behind the bill. Small as it is, it is readily seen from quite a distance even in bad light.
The similar mark on the Barrow's is more triangular in shape. Both species have a broad patch of white against the black-brown on the wing. The two species are found in the Northeast and Northwest, the Barrow's being limited exclusively to these areas.
In flight they can be seen for a great distance as a black and white bird whisking along at great speed. They are a hardy duck migrating north to the lakes of Maine, where the author has seen them while salmon fishing, the moment the ice has left the lakes.
Small bands of them will fly past the boat, travelling up and down the linking streams between the lakes. They are a friendly duck and are easily decoyed into a blind.
Watching them while at play is a humorous experience, for they seem to enjoy life to the fullest, dabbling, tipping up, diving, fanning their wings and chattering incessantly.
They prefer a lake that is surrounded by trees, for they, like the woodchuck, seem to prefer to nest just off the ground, preferably in a dead stump. They have been known to start building a nest in a boat tied along the shore.
Goldens are not of the best eating variety, feeding on bugs, crustaceans, including crabs, snails, mollusks and fishes.
When migrating they fly in small flocks or in a bunch. They like the high altitudes and make a pretty sight flashing black and white way up there in the blue.
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