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Barrow's Goldeneye

Bucephala islandica


This medium-sized diving duck is 17 to 19 inches long and weighs anywhere from 17 to 46 ounces. It is characterized by its chunky body and large head with steep forehead. The male is white with black back and head and a crescent-shaped white spot on the face; a large white patch across the base of each wing is conspicuous in flight. The female is slightly smaller than the male. Her back, wings, and tail are slate gray; her flanks, belly, and breast are white. The male's bill is black, while the female's is mostly yellow.

male Barrow's Goldeneye

female Barrow's Goldeneye

Distribution and Habitat

Barrow's goldeneyes breed from central Alaska southward through the Rocky Mountains to Oregon and Idaho, as well as in eastern Quebec and Iceland. Their winter range overlaps the southernmost portions of their breeding range and extends through the Rockies into central Colorado, with some populations wintering in northern California and others making their way to the American Southwest.

distribution of Barrow's Goldeneye

Alkaline lakes are the preferred habitat during the breeding season, while rocky coasts are preferred during the winter.


Female Barrow's goldeneyes will lay their eggs in the nest of any species of cavity-nesting duck. Once hatched, ducklings of several broods are taken care of by a single female. Ducklings are highly independent, however, and actually require little parental care besides protection from predators.

One of the longest living of the ducks, Barrow's goldeneyes may reach an age of up to 18 years. In fact, most females don't even breed until after reaching their third year.


These diving ducks feed on bottom-dwelling aquatic invertebrates, fish eggs, small fish, and some vegetation.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Aves
order Anseriformes
family Anatidae
subfamily Anatinae
genus & species Bucephala islandica

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The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Birds >> Order Anseriformes

This page was last updated on March 22, 2018.