Bird of the Week

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    Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

    This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the common goldeneye.
    These attractive, medium-sized ducks are named for their bright yellow eyes. They are strong flyers known as the whistler for the distinctive sound made by their wings in flight. The male has a black back and white sides streaked with wisps of black at the top. His iridescent green head has a round white patch near the bill. The female is a grayish color with a dark brown head and usually a dark bill tipped with orange. She is very difficult to distinguish from the female Barrow’s goldeneye, which can also be seen here but in smaller numbers.
    Some birds only show up here in the winter, and the common goldeneye is one of them, spending November through April in our area. Extremely cold-tolerant birds, they are often the last species to leave and the first to return to their breeding grounds in the boreal forests of northern Canada and Alaska. There, they nest in tree cavities near lakes, rivers or wetlands. Like many duck species, a common goldeneye will often lay eggs in her own nest and then sneak in and lay some in the nest of another female. This strategy may insure that if a predator destroys one nest, chicks will survive in the other.
    Look for these beautiful birds now on the river through town and on ice-free areas of local lakes.
    For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.