The most common waterfowl seen during winter in Sargeant Bay are the rafts of Goldeneyes congregating sometimes in the hundreds especially on a nice sunny day. Their everchanging swimming formations look like a masterfully choreographed water ballet.
Both Barrows and Common Goldeneyes hang out here though the Barrows predominate. Estimates indicate that the BC coast supports up to 90% of the world’s Barrows Goldeneyes. When groups take off, their flight creates a distinctive whistling sound hence the knickname “Whistlers”. They also associate with Scoters, bigger birds with large triangular bills.
The two species share many similarities including as you might suspect, small golden eyes. They also resemble Buffleheads in their colourings though are larger birds. The differences in Goldeneyes are seen in the markings. Male Barrows have a white crescent moon on their purplish iridescent heads as well as a white fingermark on their black flanks. Common males have a round white spot on their cheeks and all white under flanks. Both females have brownish heads with more gently sloping forheads belonging to the Common Goldeneyes. Female Barrows are distinguished best by their yellow beaks.
Courtship between the sexes is entertaining to watch. Lithsome yoga posturing and interesting sounds. Goldeneyes are tree hole nesters so each spring breeding females must house hunt, usually by inland lakes, for available aspen or cottonwood cavities. They will sometimes use nest boxes though with the bird sanctuary next door and upland forests, the likelihood of finding suitable temporary accommodation is high around Sargeant Bay.