Yesterday I took this photo of the Western Grebe, a bird I know, the larger of the two in the image. The other bird, the little one with the brown hood was photo-bombing the picture as far as I was concerned. I didn’t know what it was.
That’s her on the left, a female in breeding plumage, swimming behind the larger Western Grebe. A look in the Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Western North America got me to thinking it was a Barrow’s Goldeneye. I got excited thinking this was a new member of the estuarine community. Now, thanks to the vast readership of Estuarian.org, I’ve amended my initial identification.*
Common Goldeneyes are long-lived for ducks. The oldest known goldeneye reached an age of 20 years, 5 months. It’s not uncommon for them to reach the age of 15 years. They eat small animals: fish, insects, mollusks, and other invertebrates. They nest in cavities and take well to homes made of wood by people. They are not endangered and range all over North America in winter.
By the way, if you’re interested in learning about birds online, Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology called AllAboutBirds.org is a very good resource. It’s where the material in the paragraph above came from.
*In the comments, Ray, says it’s more likely a female common golden eye in breeding plumage, due to the yellow tip on the bill. He’s right.