Common Goldeneye

Since I spent the last blog entry describing the Barrow’s Goldeneye, I thought it only fair to devote this entry to the Common Goldeneye. I thought it a little strange that I see the Barrow’s Goldeneye much more commonly than the Common Goldeneye, but a little research revealed that the Barrow’s Goldeneye is limited to two major areas, and one of those areas is Vancouver, B.C., which is at the other end of Puget Sound. If you get involved with birders, you soon learn that a “rare” bird is often a “common” bird that has wandered off course or is simply on “vacation” in an exotic locale.

Anyhow, I’m more apt to see a Barrow’s goldeneye than a Common goldeneye, though it’s still not unusual to see one on Ruston Way, like this one:

Common goldeneye

Despite some differences that are obvious when you get close, the two species are hard to tell apart at a distance but are easy to tell from different species like Bufflehead or mergansers. I don’t think most people could tell the difference between the two from their silhouette, but the silhouette would readily distinguish them from mergansers, bufflehead, and grebes.

Once you’ve been birding long enough, you can begin to tell birds apart simply from their flight pattern. Sea ducks, however, are more apt to dive than to fly away. I learned long ago to recognize grebes by their dive, and I’ve finally gotten pretty good at recognizing goldeneyes from their distinctive dive,

goldeneye Diving

though I’m still amazed at how smoothly a goldeneye enters the water and how little sign there is of his entry.

Goldeneye diving

I can’t manage to get a picture of the goldeneyes underwater, I did the next best thing and tried to find a shot of one on Youtube. I couldn’t find a shot identified as a goldeneye, but this shot of a duck diving is pretty special: