Photo: Andrew Reding/Flickr Creative Commons

Barrow's Goldeneye

Bucephala islandica

The less numerous of the two goldeneye species, found mainly in wild country of northwestern North America, with small populations in eastern Canada and Iceland. Occurs in small groups in winter on cold waters, sometimes associating with Common Goldeneye flocks. Since it does not always nest in tree cavities, Barrow's may nest farther north than Common Goldeneye, extending north of treeline.
Conservation status Thought to have increased in numbers in recent decades.
Family Ducks and Geese
Habitat Lakes, ponds. In winter, coastal waters, rivers. Breeds on cold inland waters, such as small lakes, rivers, beaver ponds, mostly in forested country but also in open terrain. In winter mainly on shallow, protected coastal waters, such as bays and estuaries. May winter far inland on lakes and rivers, even in very cold regions where hot springs keep water open.
The less numerous of the two goldeneye species, found mainly in wild country of northwestern North America, with small populations in eastern Canada and Iceland. Occurs in small groups in winter on cold waters, sometimes associating with Common Goldeneye flocks. Since it does not always nest in tree cavities, Barrow's may nest farther north than Common Goldeneye, extending north of treeline.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male, breeding
  • adult female
  • fledgling
  • adult male, breeding
  • adult female
Feeding Behavior

Forages by diving and swimming underwater; rarely by dabbling in shallow water.


Eggs

7-10, sometimes 5-14. Pale olive to blue-green. Incubation is by female, 28-34 days. Female covers eggs with down when leaving nest. Young: leave nest 1-2 days after hatching, are led to water by female. Young are tended by female, but feed themselves. Age at first flight about 8 weeks.


Young

leave nest 1-2 days after hatching, are led to water by female. Young are tended by female, but feed themselves. Age at first flight about 8 weeks.

Diet

varies with season and habitat. On fresh water eats mainly aquatic insects, such as larvae of dragonflies and caddisflies. At sea eats mostly crustaceans and mollusks. Also eats much plant material, especially pondweeds, mainly in summer and fall.


Nesting

Pairs are formed mostly in winter. Several males may court one female in communal display on water. Displays of male include a circular pumping action of the head; also turning head from side to side, flapping wings. Nest: Female selects nest site and may re-use it for several years. Sites are mainly in large tree cavities, also in rock crevices, abandoned buildings, burrows, or on ground under bushes in treeless country. Will also use nest boxes. Nest is shallow depression lined with down and sometimes other materials.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Migrates late in fall and early in spring. Able to adapt to changing conditions; in recent years some have wintered on cold waters just downstream from dams on lower Colorado River, south of any previous wintering area.

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Migration

Migrates late in fall and early in spring. Able to adapt to changing conditions; in recent years some have wintered on cold waters just downstream from dams on lower Colorado River, south of any previous wintering area.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Soft grunts and croaks during courtship; otherwise usually silent.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Diving Ducks Duck-like Birds

Barrow's Goldeneye

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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