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Barrow's Goldeneye

Bucephala islandica

Length: 18 inches Wingspan: 30 inches Seasonality: Winter / Migrant
ID Keys: White crescent spot on face, yellow eye, purplish sheen on black head.
Barrow's Goldeneye - Bucephala islandica

Much less common in the state than it's close cousin, the Common Goldeneye, the Barrow's Goldeneye is generally a casual winter visitor.  The two species can be identified by the differing shape of the the males' facial white spots.  Barrow's Goldeneyes strongly prefer cold, inland waters for breeding, and have also recently adapted their winter range to include cold discharge waters below large dams in the southwestern United States.

Habitat: Breeds on cold waters of the interior of northwestern North America, including ponds, small lakes, and rivers.  Most wintering birds are found in coastal waters of the Pacific Northwest, but can also be found in the interior where open water is available.

Diet: Insects and insect larvae, crustaceans, mollusks, and plant material.

Behavior: A diving duck, obtaining nearly all its food by diving underwater and propelling itself with its feet in search of food.

Interactive eBird Map: Click to access an interactive eBird map of Barrow's Goldeneye sightings

Song: Guttural croaking, with various catlike squeals from males during courtship.

Migration: Summers throughout much of northwestern North America, with smaller numbers in eastern Canada.  Winters throughout many of the same areas, although many in Canada and Alaska move to the Pacific Coast.  

Similar Species: Common Goldeneye.  See Identification Tips.

Conservation Status: Numbers appear to be stable throughout their normal range.

South Dakota "Hotspot": For the past few years, Canyon Lake within Rapid City has held a Barrow's Goldeneye in the winter.

Further Information: 1) USGS Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, Barrow's Goldeneye

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - Barrow's Goldeneye"

3) Barrow's Goldeneye

Photo Information: June 16th, 2002 -- Yellowstone River, Yellowstone National Park -- Terry L. Sohl


Click on the range map for a higher-resolution view
Range Map - Barrow's Goldeneye
South Dakota Status: Rare winter visitor in the Black Hills region, accidental elsewhere in the state.

Additional (and hopefully better!) Barrow's Goldeneye Photos coming soon!