Game know-how

The common goldeneye


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The common goldeneye reminds many of us of the James Bond film Goldeneye.

The Danish name – hvinanden – translates as ‘whine duck’ on account of the noise the bird makes when flying, while the English chose to name it after the drake’s beautiful eyes, which almost dazzle like gold in the sun.

common goldeneye
common goldeneye female

Its Latin name is Bucephala clangula, which quite aptly describes the bird. Bucephala comes from the Ancient Greek and means ‘bull’s head’, which refers to the duck’s bulbous head shape. The Latin word clangula means ‘to resound’, which its beating wings certainly do.

Even though the common goldeneye is not particularly colourful, the male at least is rather ‘eye-catching’ with its black and white coloration and its golden eyes. In fact, the male’s head has a metal green tinge that clearly stands out in bright light, while on an ordinary Danish overcast day it looks black and white.

The female may resemble a wigeon with its brownish head and grey-blue body, but its plumage is more douche in colour.

As the common goldeneye nests in cavities in trees, it does not need such pronounced camouflage colours.

The common goldeneye is widely distributed over most of the northern hemisphere, except Greenland, Iceland and the far north in Asia and North America. The common goldeneye population is by no means threatened, as there are estimated to be between 2.7 million and 4.7 million individuals.

It is seen in Denmark as a migratory guest in winter, when there can be as many as 100,000 birds in the Danish waters. The common goldeneye rarely breeds in Denmark, with about 100 breeding pairs in northern Zealand around Gribskov forest and Esrum Lake.

As far as its size goes, the common goldeneye is not the largest of ducks. Its wingspan is only 70-80 cm, it is approx. 50 cm long, and it weighs not more than 600-1,200 g.

When is the best time for hunting?

The best time to hunt the common goldeneye is during the winter months from October to April. It can usually be found in the Skaggerak, Kattegat and the Little and Great Belts, but will also use large lakes to rest. Thus, it’s one of the diving ducks that you will see during morning or evening flights around lakes inland.

In the twilight, it can be identified by the distinctive whistling sound that its wings produce when flying.

Hunting – what do you need?

Hunt the common goldeneye requires a punt and decoys. However, you can also be lucky to shoot them when they are flying overhead inland and above salt meadows, but there’s no doubt that the most successful hunting takes place off the coast. It’s cold at sea, so insulated and waterproof clothing is an absolute must. Be sure to remember that salt water is hard on your rifle, so you shouldn’t take your best gun.

Common goldeneye

Hunting season: 1 October to 31 January (Denmark)
Numbers harvested: Approx. 6-10,000 a year (Denmark)
High season: October to January
For the cook: Allow one breast fillet per person. The common goldeneye is a diving duck and may well have a strong and overriding flavour. You can mitigate this distinctive flavour by making sure to trim all the fat off the fillets, and by possibly marinating them for 24 hours before cooking.

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