Let's talk goldeneyes!  Last Friday I walked the mutts up to the Columbia to see what was happening.  I found a bunch of goldeneyes, my first ones of the season, and was thrilled to find my motorless bird #134 for the year, a Barrow's Goldeneye female. 

She didn't have the short and stubby bill that Nat Geo leads you to believe she should have, but it seemed to fit fine with Sibley's expectations, as can be seen here.  She was canoodling with two other goldeneyes:

I assumed these were both Commons and they might very well be, though the bird on the right seems to have a stubbier bill.

These birds were not what got me interested though.  On my walk today to Whitaker Ponds I stopped by this little pond next to a Radisson Hotel off of Columbia Blvd.  I found a few Ring-necked Ducks, a couple Common Mergansers, and three questionable goldeneyes.

Look at that mess!  What disastrous birds.  Not one of them immediately made sense to me and that fact kind of made me happy.  Let's start with the darkest fellow:

I would assume this is a first winter male, unless it is just a male still molting into breeding plumage- but mid-November seems a bit late for that.  The bill shape and the forehead slope would indicate a Common Goldeneye to me.  

Now the next bird, the likely female of the three: 

Her bill looks good for Common and her forehead seems steeper but still in line with Common Goldeneye.  Now for the third beast:

This is, no doubt, a male bird given the pale patch next to the bill, right?  So how does he get off having an all orange bill?  And why does it seem so big?  What is this beast?  Why the bill color?  What am I missing?

The three amigos.

If birding were easy it wouldn't be fun.  Good times!

**UPDATE**  For those who are interested, local birder Dave Irons shared my yellow-billed goldeneye on ID Frontiers where some folks (including Peter Pyle and David Sibley) added their two cents.  Check out what they said here and here


  1. Oh jeesh. Don't ask me. We saw a weird Orange-crowned Warbler yesterday. There as much pouring over field guides and internet research. A bit too tedious for me...but I'm getting there :)

  2. Age may play a part in the color of the bill...all the other field marks add up to Common, so I'd just go with that..individuals may vary--is what I keep in the back of my mind.(it like those diet pills they advertise on TV..YOUR results may Vary Haha)
    a good comparison is found here
    which you prob. already scoped out.
    FUN stuff--here its so cold....even the birds are laying low..16 degrees last night--

  3. I give you credit for all of your analysis. I prefer when it's easier to figure things out and if I don't know I just send it to a site that will give me the answers I'm looking for.Congratulations on the 134 motorless birds.Great way to do a list.

    1. Thanks, Larry! It's my favorite list, and I've been known to keep a few...

  4. That's trippy shit. I wish I could say I'm glad that I don't have to deal with this complex, but it's not true.

  5. Can't say I've seen a bird like that before (young male with an orange bill), but hey, I haven't seen a lot of things. Totes COGO. When are you going to start sending me gull emails?

  6. Just curious if you ever got any more information or consensus on this bird. I think I found his evil cousin in Hamilton, ONT yesterday:

    1. Oh wow, yeah that is a beast! Interesting. There was never any conclusion made on why mine had an all orange bill but agreed it was most likely a first winter male COGO. Thanks for sharing, I might pass that link along.


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