All year round, it’s common to see green-headed brown-bodied male Mallards along the shores of Lake Ontario although during their moult they lose the green. From late fall to late spring, though, there’s another male duck swimming the Lake with a green head—actually there are two of them: Scaup and Goldeneye.
Which Scaup Is Common Around Toronto and Hamilton in the Winter: Greater or Lesser?
There are two Scaups that can winter on Lake Ontario and they both look very similar to the inexperienced eye, like mine! Fortunately for me, Greater Scaup are much, much more common in this area. In fact, it’s not unusual to spot a raft of hundreds or even thousands of them.
This is a male Greater Scaup. (If I ever get a clear photo of a male Lesser Scaup, I will update this article.)
And this is a female Greater Scaup, I hope. The white patch in front of the bill is something to look for when you’re sorting out a flock of wintering birds.
The Scaup are diving ducks and they have been known to feed on Zebra Mussels.
Which Goldeneye is Common Around Toronto and Hamilton in the Winter: Common or Barrow’s?
Fortunately, this is not a trick question: Common Goldeneye actually are more common here. In fact I have never knowingly seen a Barrow’s Goldeneye, although I keep hoping. If you look at images online, you’ll see Barrow’s have a differently shaped white mark on the face.
This is a male Common Goldeneye. Depending on the light, the head can appear either purple or green.
This is a female Common Goldeneye, I hope.
Unlike Mallards, but like Scaup, the Goldeneyes are diving ducks.
According to the AllAboutBirds website, they eat aquatic invertebrates and some small fish and plants.
During the snowy winter months, the large flocks of ducks along the shores of the Lake are one of the only places to find surprising birds. I keep scanning the flocks I see, hoping to catch a glimpse of a Barrow’s Goldeneye or a Lesser Scaup. But even if I don’t, I do enjoy seeing the colours and the sometimes amusing behaviour of the Greater Scaup and Common Goldeneye.
- Surf Scoters Ride the Waves of Lake Ontario
- White-Winged Scoters Keep a Wary Eye on Passersby
- What Ducks Are In This Raft of Hundreds on a Wintery Lake Ontario?
- One of These Mallards Is Actually a Wood Duck
Do you have a favourite winter duck? Please share your views with a comment.