What Black and White Duck Has a Green Head and a Blue Bill and Winters in Lake Ontario Near Toronto?

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.

Photo of Common Goldeneye LaSalle Marina ON March on NaturalCrooksDotCom
A male Common Goldeneye swims briskly by the pier at Lasalle Park.

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.)

Photo of Greater Scaup Male Unwin On NaturalCrooksDotCom

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.

Photo of Greater Scaup Female Unwin On NaturalCrooksDotCom

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.

Photo of Common Goldeneye  Male Unwin On NaturalCrooksDotCom

This is a female Common Goldeneye, I hope.

Photo of Common Goldeneye Female Unwin On NaturalCrooksDotCom

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.

Photo of Common Goldeneye Pair Courting Gairloch on NaturalCrooksDotCom
A pair of Common Goldeneye strike some interesting poses.

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