Communal displays of ducks during winter escapes

A goldeneye, pictured by Bruce Falcon.
A goldeneye, pictured by Bruce Falcon.
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More ducks have been congregating on ponds and lakes among them goldeneye, pictured. The males are now engaged in communal displays during which they perform a dramatic head pumping action.

This involves leaning the head back until it meets the middle of its back, then suddenly kicking out with the feet while thrusting the head and neck vertically and giving out a loud and rasping double whistle which can be heard a considerable distance away.

Large numbers of goldeneye come here to escape the winter in Finland and Russia and live up to their name because they really do have glittering golden eyes.

The drakes are very smart with dark green heads and a bright white spot on each cheek while the females have brownish heads – the head shape is quite distinctive, a long sloping forehead and peaked crown giving a bulbous, almost triangular shape.

The goldeneye originated in North America but has now expanded all around the taiga forests of Europe and Asia.

They are one of the few ducks that nest in trees, the mandarin duck is another, and will take over the large holes previously excavated by black woodpeckers.

Such nest holes are limited in number and the competition for territories is fierce so, not surprisingly, the goldeneye has readily taken to nest boxes as an alternative.

By 1998 of 52 pairs nesting at the RSPB’s Insh Marshes reserve only five were in natural sites. There are now around 200 pairs in the Spey Valley and goldeneyes have also nested successfully in the Scottish Borders.

The Yorkshire Wildlife Calendars for 2018, produced by Michael Flowers and costing £9.25 (including p&p) are now available. For more information, see www.eybirdwatching.blogspot.com or contact mflowers81@live.co.uk or 07946 625688.