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.
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.
Male Barrow's Goldeneye in flight.