With the influx of goldeneyes during the past few weeks into southern Ontario, I've been looking through the flocks for both male and female Barrow's Goldeneyes. Today, November 19, I observed a female Common Goldeneye with an orange-yellow bill on the Ottawa River at Shirley's Bay. This is the second individual that I've seen during the past two weeks and I've had a few local birders report possible female Barrow's that have turned out to be Common Goldeneyes. The bill colour of female Barrow's is only an "aid" to the identification and it is not diagnostic. Most important is to look at 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. Common has a rounded rather than flat crown with a sloping forehead and longer bill. Some birds appear intermediate.
Good birding, Bruce Di Labio and Ron Pittaway
See link: Bill Colour and Identification of Female Barrow's Goldeneye by
Bruce Di Labio, Ron Pittaway and Peter Burke in Ontario Birds 15 (2): 81-85,
See also photos on my blog.
A distant female Commmon Goldeneye with a orange/yellow bill at Shirley's Bay.
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