This Godeneye pair was among the new arrivals on the North Basin cove over the Thanksgiving weekend. These also breed in the boreal forests of Canada and Alaska. They have very special nesting habits. Instead of nesting on the ground, like most ducks, they nest high up in a tree or in a nest box. The day after the chicks hatch, the mother calls to them from down below, and they come tumbling down, sometimes tens of feet.
The Cornell bird lab has these “Cool Facts” about the Common Goldeneye:
Hunters dubbed the Common Goldeneye the “whistler” for the distinctive whistling sound of its wings in flight. Cold weather accentuates the sound.
A female Common Goldeneye often lays eggs in the nest of another female, especially in nest boxes. She may lay in the nests of other species of ducks as well. Common and Barrow’s goldeneyes lay in each other’s nests, and Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers often lay in the goldeneye’s nest too.
Like Wood Ducks, Common Goldeneyes readily use nest boxes as a stand-in for naturally occurring tree cavities. Some return to the same box year after year.
Goldeneye chicks leave the nest just one day after they hatch. The first step can be a doozy, with nests placed in tree cavities up to 40 feet high. As the female stands at the base of the tree and calls, the downy chicks jump from the nest hole one after the other and tumble to the ground.
After the ducklings leave the nest they can feed themselves and require only protection. Some females abandon their broods soon after hatching, and the young will join another female’s brood. Such mixed broods, known as “creches,” may also occur when a female loses some ducklings after a territorial fight with another female. Young scatter and mix when females fight, and not all of them get back to their mother when the fight ends. Some or all of the ducklings may be transferred to one brood, usually that of the territory owner.
The eyes of a Common Goldeneye are gray-brown at hatching. They turn purple-blue, then blue, then green-blue as they age. By five months of age they have become clear pale green-yellow. The eyes will be bright yellow in adult males and pale yellow to white in females.
In winter and early spring, male Common Goldeneyes perform a complex series of courtship displays that includes up to 14 moves with names like “masthead,” “bowsprit,” and “head throw kick,” in which the male bends his head back to touch his rump, then thrusts forward and kicks up water with his feet.
The oldest known Common Goldeneye was a male, and at least 20 years, 5 months based. He was banded and found in Minnesota.https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Common_Goldeneye/