Bucephala clangula americana

Status:  Common regular spring migrant statewide. Rare casual summer visitor statewide. Common, locally abundant, regular fall migrant statewide. Uncommon, locally common, regular winter visitor statewide.

Documentation: Specimen: UNSM ZM7681, 10 Apr 1926 Lincoln, Lancaster Co.

Taxonomy: Two subspecies are recognized, European Common Goldeneye B. c. clangula, and American Common Goldeneye, B. c. americana (Gill and Donsker 2017).

This species is known to hybridize with Hooded Merganser. There are 11 Nebraska records of this hybrid, including some photographed, but probably involving only 3-4 different individuals: (1) a male at Lake Ogallala, Keith Co 28 Jan 1995, 23 Jan-6 Feb 1999, the winters of 1999-2000 and 2000-2001 (Brown and Brown 2001), and 19 Jan 2004, (2) a male at Cunningham Lake, Douglas Co Mar 1997 and 28 Feb 1999, (3) one in Scotts Bluff Co 17 Jan 2005 and 13 Feb 2010, and (4) a male at Branched Oak Lake, Lancaster Co 8 Mar 2014 and 10 Feb 2015.

There is a single Nebraska record of a hybrid between this species and Bufflehead; one was photographed in Dodge Co 19 Apr 2020 (Croshaw, There are some 50 records of this hybrid for North America (

Complicating separation of this species and Barrow’s Goldeneye are hybrids between these two species (Martin and Di Labio 1994) and female Common Goldeneyes with entirely yellow bills (Sibley 2017). A likely hybrid was In Lincoln Co 21 Mar 2010; female Common Goldeneyes with all yellow bills are regularly observed in the state.

Spring:  winter  <<<>>> May 18, 19, 20

Despite the presence of wintering birds, spring movement is evident beginning mid-Feb and early Mar, often occurring with frozen water bodies opening up as a result of warming temperatures. Numbers peak in mid-Mar and decline quickly into mid-Apr. Later reports are 24-30 May 2019 Lake Ogallala, Keith Co, 26 May 1990 Howard-Hall Cos, 27 May 1981 Garden Co, 29 May 1993 Keith Co, 3 Jun Keith Co (Rosche 1994), 7 Jun 1981 McPherson Co, 1-3 on 7-12 Jun 2003 Lake Ogallala, 8 Jun 2008 female Sarpy Co, and 9 Jun 2011 near Fremont, Dodge Co.

    • High counts: (where wintering did not occur): 1875 at Branched Oak Lake 17 Feb 2015, 1200 on Lewis and Clark Lake, Knox Co 29 Mar 2018, and 1000 there 6 Mar 2020.

SummerThere are only 14 reports between 9 Jun and 11 Sep: 13-22 Jun 2002 male Lake Ogallala, 14 Jun 1980 Scotts Bluff Co, 16 Jun-26 Jul 2020 Lewis and Clark Lake, Cedar and Knox Cos, 26 Jun 2019 Lake Ogallala, Keith Co, 30 Jun 1967 Garden Co, late Jun 1999 male near Antioch, Sheridan Co, 6 Jul 1993 Scotts Bluff Co, first-year male at County Line WPA, York and Fillmore Cos 8 Jul 2015, 14 Jul-21 Aug 1978 a female at Lake McConaughy (Rosche 1994), a single at Boyer Chute NWR, Washington Co 16 Jul 2015, 8 Aug-8 Sep 1998 Lake Ogallala, 9 Aug 1991 Keystone Lake, Keith Co (Rosche 1994), 6 Sep 1993 Sarpy Co, and a specimen collected in Sep 1916 (no date) in Clay Co, HMM 2394 (Brooking, Notes).

Fall:  Oct 18, 18, 20 <<<>>> winter

Migration begins in late Oct, although there are earlier reports of 28 on 11 Sep 1997 Crescent Lake NWR, Garden Co, 23 Sep 1986 Pierce Co, 2 Oct 1965 Adams Co, 11 Oct 1991 Lincoln Co, and 13 Oct 1988 Scotts Bluff Co. Peak numbers occur in mid-Dec.

  • High counts:  3800 at Sutherland Reservoir, Lincoln Co 17 Dec 1998, 3000 there 18 Dec 1997, and 1703 at Lake McConaughy 21 Dec 2003.

WinterThis species overwinters wherever open water occurs, notably in the North and South Platte and Missouri River Valleys, usually in small numbers. While 300-500 normally winter on Lake Ogallala (Rosche 1994), a flock numbering around 2000 was there during winter 1999-2000. There were 420 at Lake Minatare, Scotts Bluff Co 29 Jan 2006, 630 at Sutherland Reservoir 3 Jan 2011, and 380 there 1 Jan 2010. There were around 1700 in the Gavin’s Point Dam area, Cedar and Knox Cos 16-22 Jan 2019 and 1500 there 10 Feb 2020.


HMM: Hastings Municipal Museum
NWR: National Wildlife Refuge
SL: Sewage Lagoons
UNSM: University of Nebraska State Museum
WPA: Waterfowl Production Area (Federal)


Photograph (top) of Common Goldeneyes flying over the Missouri River at Fontenelle Forest, Sarpy Co, 2 Jan 2009 by Phil Swanson.

Literature Cited:

Brooking, A.M. Notes. Bird specimen records. Manuscript in NOU Archives.

Brown, C.R., and M.B. Brown. 2001. Birds of the Cedar Point Biological Station. Occasional Papers of the Cedar Point Biological Station, No. 1.

Gill, F., and D. Donsker (Eds). 2017. IOC World Bird List (v 7.3), accessed 30 January 2018.

Martin, P.R., and B.M. Di Labio. 1994. Identification of Common X Barrow’s Goldeneye hybrids in the field. Birding 26:104-105.

Rosche, R.C. 1994. Birds of the Lake McConaughy area and the North Platte River valley, Nebraska.  Published by the author, Chadron, NE.

Sibley, D. 2017. Distinguishing female Barrow’s and Common Goldeneyes, accessed 1 Feb 2018.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2020.  Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 6 Aug 2020