Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Surfers

Usually, when one sees waterbirds paddling round placidly up here, they’re ducks. There’s nothing much mysterious about ducks except for their genitals. I can’t look at a mallard anymore without thinking about feathery little rapists. Thanks, Ed Yong. Thanks so much.

Back in the days when ducks were just a semi-domestic feature of the local ponds, and I lived in a complex with a lovely little pond with a fountain in the middle, I used to enjoy watching them float around. And I noticed that in the wintertime, they were joined by some apparent cousins. Little black and white things, they were, which seemed a bit out of place amidst the locals. I figured they were migratory something-or-others, and always liked having the bit of variety.

I never suspected they surfed.


Lake Washington was being whipped up into whitecaps by the wind, big swells and so forth, and this wee delight was just bobbing like a cork. Looked very much in its element. Which, I suppose, it was.

You have no idea how hard it is to get a good photo of a waterbird when it’s on a choppy lake in the wind with the clouds scudding over the sun, and the thing’s fairly far away.


Also, it was swimming. For the fun of it, seemingly, just randomly turning this way and that and riding the swells.


You know, I kinda wish I had one for my bathtub. Not a live one, my cat is a definite only child and hates ducks and all related waterfowl, but a nice little rubber one. Frickin’ adorable.


There was another one, too. I’m not sure if it’s the same species or not – it looks a bit different – but this one was awesome. It’s a total surfer.


It would paddle out, and then catch a wave.


Of course, by the time I caught on to what it was doing and had the camera all ready to shoot a video of this awesome surfer bird action, it dove down for lunch. Bugger.

Right, my dear ornithologists. Have at.

Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Surfers

10 thoughts on “Unidentified Flying Dinosaur: Surfers

  1. 6

    I’m actually having a little trouble with the first one — the major distinction (for me) between Barrow’s and Common Goldeneye is the shape of the cheek patch. Common is pretty much round, Barrow’s is more of a comma shape. This is a little bit in between, but I’d say probably common goldeneye.

    The other one is certainly a male bufflehead, or, as Audubon called it, a Buffalo Headed Duck. We see them here in the spring and the fall, they breed in the far north. If you see a little mostly dark one with just a simple white cheek patch it’s likely the female.

    One of these days I’m going to get in first on one of these!

  2. 7

    It could have been surfing for the fun of it. My wife used to live by aome rapids. Each evening the pelicans would start at the top, come bobbing down, then fly up for another go round.

  3. 8

    A few days away and I find this one nearly solved.
    I’m going with male Common Goldeneye as although the facial spot is a bit ambiguous, the shape of the white scapulars is spot on for Common and not for Barrow’s.
    And yes, Bufflehaed male for the second.

  4. 10

    Of all the places to find the name of this duck.. I recently had a field trip to a duck sanctuary, completely unrelated to proper Geology, but an important bit of coursework nonetheless. And this was the only duck I didn’t manage to identify. Thanks for posting this

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