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Barrow's Goldeneye

Bucephala islandica

Diving Ducks Family

Waterfowl Identification

Male Barrow's Goldeneye
Female Barrow's Goldeneye
Similar Waterfowl:
Common Goldeneye
In flight, a Barrow's goldeneye is difficult to distinguish from a common goldeneye. A puffy, oval-shaped head, steep forehead and stubby triangular bill help distinguish it from a resting common goldeneye. The male Barrow's goldeneye has a glossy purplish head with a crescent-shaped white patch between the eye and bill. The dark back contrasts with the white neck, breast and belly. The scapulars are black with a distinctive row of rectangular white spots. The white greater coverts are tipped with black forming a black band between the white speculum and the white patch on the greater coverts. The bill is black and the legs and feet are yellowish. The female Barrow's goldeneye has a dark chocolate-brown head with a narrow whitish collar. The back and sides are dapple-gray and the chest, breast and belly are white. The bill is fleshy-yellow with a blackish basal area and nail. The legs and feet are yellowish.
Typical Size:
The male and female average 18 inches in length and weigh 2 pounds. They have a wingspan of 28 inches.
The Barrow's goldeneye prefer habitats near a pond, lake, or river. They also enjoy woodland areas.
Barrow's goldeneyes breed in southeastern Alaska, northern Mackenzie, and northwestern British Columbia south to eastern Washington, southwestern Oregon, and eastern California; the Colorado Rockies; Quebec, Labrador, Greenland, and Iceland. Barrow's goldeneyes nest in wooded or open country usually near a lake or pond surrounded by dense vegetation, usually in a natural tree cavity, abandoned woodpecker hole, nest box, rock cavity or stream bank. They often nest in same area in successive years and females lay an average of 6 to 12 eggs.
Barrow's goldeneyes dive to feed on aquatic insects, crustaceans, small fishes, fish eggs, and pondweeds found in freshwater habitats, and mollusks, seastars, and marine worms found in marine habitats.
In winter, Barrow's goldeneyes are often observed in large flocks on lakes, rivers, estuaries, and bays from southern Alaska south along the west coast to central California, locally from southern British Columbia and northern Montana to northern Nevada, Utah, and Colorado and from the Gulf of St. Lawrence south to New York, rarely to South Carolina.
Flyway Patterns:
The Barrow's goldeneye can be found along the coastal and Central flyway.
Flight Formation:
Small compact high flying flocks. Flight is swift, strong and erratic. Speeds reach 70 MPH.
Both males and females are generally quiet with an occasional hoarse CROAK.

Barrow's Goldeneye Flight and Plumage Characteristics

This guide will help you recognize Barrows Goldeneyes on the wing - it emphasizes their size, shape, and flight characteristics. Goldeneyes are strong fliers that move singly or in small flocks and are often called whistlers because of the distinctive wing-whistling sound in flight. They move south late in the season and most winter on Pacific coastal waters. Barrow's goldeneye is less wary than the common goldeneye. Hens of both species are look-alikes and have a low quack. Drakes have a piercing speer-speer, but both are usually quiet.