A few days ago I wrote a post about a Common Goldeneye female soloing it in Whitemud Creek (see post #079). Well, as I mentioned in that post, there are two species of goldeneyes in these neck of the woods, the Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) and Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica). Similarly to the Common Goldeneye, the Barrow’s Goldeneye is named after its piercing golden eye. While the species look very similar their distributions are quite different. The Common Goldeneye can be found across Canada, from the Pacific all the way to the Atlantic Ocean while Barrow’s Goldeneye, on the other hand, is found in a narrow belt running north south along the Rocky Mountains and the odd small pocket in Eastern Canada.
As I crossed the pedestrian bridge across the Whitemud Creek a lone female Common Goldeneye (Bucephalus clangula) was swimming around in the creek eyeing me curiously. Common Goldeneyes are medium-sized diving ducks where the females are brunettes with a piercing golden-yellow eye. There are two species of goldeneyes, the Common Goldeneye, which as the name suggests is more common, and, the more rare, Barrow’s Goldeneye. While the males of the two species are easy to tell apart, the females are more difficult to distinguish as they appear nearly identical. According to Sibley the Barrow’s Goldeneye female has a darker brown head than the Common Goldeneye which does not help me at all since I did not have the two species next to each other for comparison. Perhaps the best distinguishing characteristic between the females of the two species for someone like me that has only seen a handful of these species is the bill color. According to Sibley the female Barrow’s Goldeneye has a “usually mostly yellow” bill while the female of the Common Goldeneye has a “usually mostly black” bill. Looking at the picture I would say that her bill is definitely in the category “mostly black”; ergo, it is a Common Goldeneye.