Thursday, November 12, 2009

November 12-20, 2009 Barrow's Goldeneyes, hybrids, and female Common and Barrow's Goldeneyes

With the influx of Goldeneyes during the past few week along the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers I've been closely looking through the flocks for both male and female Barrow's Goldeneyes. It's been lots of fun and so far I've observed 2 male Barrow's Goldeneye along the Rideau River off Strathcona Park and the Rideau Tennis Club area, 1 male Barrow's at Remic Rapids, 1 hybrid male Barrow's x Common Goldeneye off Strathcona Park, and 2 female Barrow's Goldeneye, one at Deschenes Rapids and the other at Remic Rapids. Since the river is still free of ice it is hard to know exactly how many Barrow's Goldeneye are in the Ottawa area. The goldeneyes can move from the Rideau to the Ottawa River and this usually happens once the ice freezes over and only the rapids and any fast moving water remains open.
During the past week I've also observed a few orange-yellow billed female Common Goldeneye along the Ottawa and Rideau Rivers. I've had a few local birders report possible female Barrow's that have turned out to be Common Goldeneyes. It is very important to remember the bill colour of female Barrow's is only an aid to the identification and it is not diagnostic. The most important field mark to look for is the head shape. The head of the female Barrow's Goldeneye has an oval shape created by a steep forehead, flat crown and elongated hind neck feathers like a mane. The latter gives the appearance of a swept back crest, similar to the male Barrow's and female Hooded Merganser. The head shape of the Common Goldeneye lacks the " puffiness" of the female Barrow's. It has a rounded rather than flat crown and a sloping forehead. The male hybrid goldeneye has characteristics of both Common and Barrow's Goldeneye. The facial crescent is smaller, the shoulder spur is short and the checkered pattern on the scapulars is not well defined. Hybrids are rare in Ontario but do occur.

Two male Barrow's Goldeneye off Strathcona Park. Note the distinctive cresent on head, black shoulder spur and checked pattern on scapulars.

The male Barrow's Goldeneye also has a blacker back and sides than a male Common Goldeneye.

Female Barrow's Goldeneye have a distinctive head shape, note the steep forehead, flat top and puffy back of head. Also, the head colour is a chocolate brown.

Female Barrow's Goldeneye in centre with female Common Goldeneyes. Note the head shape.

Comparison of female Common and Barrow's Goldeneye in flight.

Comparison of male Common and Barrow's Goldeneye.

Male Barrow's Goldeneye in flight.

Yellow/orange billed female Common Goldeneye.

Comparison of female Common Goldeneyes.

Hybrid Common x Barrow's Goldeneye. Note smaller facial crescent, short shoulder spur and less defined checkered pattern on scapulars.

1 comment:

Nick from Ottawa said...

Thanks -- that really lays it out clearly. Though the female Barrow's will still take some study! But are the Barrow's Goldeneye seen on the Ottawa River different birds from those seen on the Rideau River? Or do they go back and forth here during the winter?