As you might guess, the Common Goldeneye is more widespread of the two, ranging nationwide during the winter. We even saw them way offshore while we were leading bird walks at Goose Island State Park this past December. The male Common Goldeneye has an oval white spot on its face and a predominantly white back and sides.
Common Goldeneye male
Here in the Pacific NW they are one of the more common ducks that we see, and are found in both fresh and salt water. Females are more subtlety marked than males, but their orange-tipped bill and golden eye make them distinctive.
Common Goldeneye pair, with female Bufflehead in the foreground
Barrow's Goldeneyes are more restricted in their range. The Pacific and north Atlantic coasts are their main stomping grounds, though they do move inland to breed. The male Barrow's Goldeneye has a crescent-shaped white mark on its face and a darker back.
Barrow's Goldeneye male
I've not yet gotten a good picture of a Barrow's Goldeneye female, but they are distinguished from the Common Goldeneye by their entirely orange bill.
Trio of Barrow's Goldeneye males
We're enjoying the opportunity to closely observe birds that are uncommon in many areas of the country. More to come!!