Diving Ducks

Ducks are sometimes divided into two broad groups: Dabblers and Divers. A diving duck feeds well below the Lake’s surface, whereas a dabbling duck feeds from the surface of the Lake by merely dipping its head down.

The structure of the bodies of these two groups differs in ways that facilitate the way they feed. A diving duck has large paddle-like feet and small wings, a combination which caters to underwater swimming, but makes some other activities more difficult. The smaller wings make it harder for a diver to become airborne, and it uses its big feet to run across the water to gain the necessary speed to lift off. Also, the larger feet, set towards the back of the body, makes the diver somewhat clumsy on land. Divers eat aquatic insects, plants and mollusks.

Diving ducks which have been sighted around Kootenay Lake are: Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Barrow's Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Ruddy Duck.

common goldeneye, femaleCommon Goldeneye, female  The goldeneye repeatedly spread and shook its wings, as if to clear them of something. Kootenay Lake is on the southern end of this duck’s summer range and the northern end of its winter range and so can be seen here all year long.

common goldeneye, femaleCommon Goldeneye, female  In this shot just before the goldeneye dived, one can see the webbed feet spread ready to propel the bird down.

common goldeneye, female The same bird as on the left, seen in profile.

common goldeneye femaleWhile the bill of the female Common Goldeneye is dark in the summer, from about November to May, it gains a yellow patch. This view is early December.

barrow's goldeneyesA Barrow’s Goldeneye couple, the male has comma–shaped white patch in the lores. At this time of the year, the female has a mainly yellow bill with a dark tip.

goldeneyes, male barrows and commonTwo male Barrow’s (forward) and a Common Goldeneye (back).

common goldeneye maleThe male Common Goldeneye has a distinctive white oval on the cheek, and a black head.

common goldeneye coupleCommon Goldeneye couple.

Barrow’s Goldeneye malesBarrow’s Goldeneye males have a white crescent, rather than the oval of the Common Goldeneye. The following male is a juvenile (first winter). The mature Barrow’s male is also distinguished from the Common by the extent of the white markings on the back. Barrow’s Goldeneye is found from the Rockies (summer) to the Coast (winter) and is mostly seen around Kootenay Lake in the fall as it moves from the one region to the other.

Barrow’s GoldeneyeTwo Barrow’s Goldeneye couples. The Barrow’s and Common Goldeneye females are not as easy to distinguish as are the males. But, the beak of the Common is mainly black while that of the Barrow’s is mainly yellow. The fact that the female differences are minor may account for the fact that hybrids can sometimes be seen.

merganser, femaleCommon Merganser, female. The bird lounging in this way as if on a settee, reminds me of Ingre’s 1814 oil painting, La Grande Odalisque.

merganserMerganser chicks often hitch a ride on the back of mother—but there isn’t always room for all.

merganser chicksNap time in the play school for merganser chicks.

merganser, maleCommon Merganser, male

merganser huntingFemale merganser scouring the depths for delectables.

bufflehead buckBufflehead Duck, male. This is the smallest duck on the Lake. Its head apparently reminded early observers of that of a buffalo; thus its name.

bufflehead ducksWhile the male Bufflehead Duck shows extensive white, the female only has an oval patch of white on the cheek. The Bufflehead is most common on the Lake during the colder months, having spent the breeding season farther north.

diving buffleheadThis Bufflehead Duck is diving.

ring-necked duck, femaleThe female Ring-necked Duck is a more beige version of the male (below). She has a white eye ring.

ring-necked duck, maleWhile the male Ring-necked Duck is more easily identified by the ring around the base of the beak than around the neck; this picture does show the faint redish ring around the neck that gives the duck its name.

greater scaupsTwo female Greater Scaups on the left and one male on the right. The female shows more brown and extensive white on the face.

greater scaups and a redhead ducksDozens of Greater Scaups and a lone Redhead Duck are visiting the Lake in the wintertime.

greater scaups Greater Scaups land on the lake: male on the left; females on the right.

greater scaups A female Greater Scaup touches down on the Lake.

greater scaups and a redhead ducksDiving ducks (these are Buffleheads) have small wings making it difficult to become airborne. They must run across the water to pick up speed.

hooded merganserOne only sees the male Hooded Merganser with his hood up during mating season.

hooded merganserThe female Hooded Merganser can be quite plain.

hooded merganserThe female with her hood raised is striking.

hooded merganserA hood couple takes to the air.

red-breasted merganserThis is an uncommon sighting around here:, a Red–breasted Merganser female which was seen near Taghum in December.

Information from Wikipedia: Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Redhead Duck,
Hooded Merganser. Red–breasted Merganser.

Fraser tartan