Make the ID: Common Goldeneye vs Bufflehead

Make the ID: 
These two beautiful ducks can be found in the same areasand at a distance, or in poor light on their own,  can be confusing. 
Common Goldeneye
Photo Credit:  Stan Tekeila

Both Buffleheads and Common Goldeneyes have iridescent green on their heads and shocks of white.  And while Common Goldeneyes do indeed have golden eyes, this isn’t always apparent. Knowing just a few differences can help you make the correct ID very quickly:

Photo Credit: Stan Tekeila



1 – Size. If you can see them together, this makes it an easy ID. Buffleheads are small and Goldeneye are medium sized ducks.


If you can’t determine the size from where you are…


2 – Check for the shocks of white. Both birds at a distance have a bright white chest and sides, but Common Goldeneye have a round spot just behind the bill, and Buffleheads have a large patch on the back of their heads which is more visible if you are far away than the small spot on Common Goldeneyes.

Let’s just say you you are so far away or the birds are backlighted and you can’t see any of these other things clearly…

3 – Watch behavior. Buffleheads are like little corks in the water. They dive frequently and pop up – sometimes springing into and out of the water. They are stiff-tailed ducks so they use these tails to propel them up and into the water. Common Goldeneye however, while they spend a lot of time under the water, seem far less enthusiastic about their diving than Buffleheads.

Take a moment to look for these three things, and you can make a quick ID!