Thursday, February 20, 2014

Common Goldeneye Suitors

After two weeks of spring-like weather, the ice and snow has gradually decreased along the Front Range urban corridor.  In concert, wintering waterfowl have spread out from the South Platte River and  are now found on most ponds and lakes throughout the valley.

Yesterday morning, on a hike through South Platte Park, in Littleton, I came across a quartet of male common goldeneyes surrounding a lone female.  As she did her best to ignore the suitors, diving repeatedly for her breakfast of aquatic invertebrates, the males performed their distinctive courtship display.  Snapping their heads backwards, bills pointed toward the clear blue sky, they delivered brief, frog-like calls; between these displays, they attempted to chase one another away from the female.

Common goldeneyes are common winter residents in the South Platte Valley, often seen in the company of buffleheads, hooded mergansers and other diving ducks; on the other hand, they are seldom encountered in large flocks and are most often observed in pairs or small groups.  By April, they will head for Canada, Alaska and northern New England, where they nest in tree cavities near lakes and streams.