Barrow’s Goldeneye – length: 18 inches, wing span: 28 inches
With a relatively limited usual range in the lower 48 states of the U.S., the Barrow’s Goldeneye is a prized vagrant to find on a winter birding trip in many states. Barrow’s Goldeneye breeding territories are defended by males, and some pairs also defend winter territories, though lone birds are often seen in winter with flocks of Common Goldeneyes.
As for most ducks, weather, disease, and hunting are major mortality sources. Individual birds can live a long time, with the known record for a bird in the wild being over 18 years old. Barrow’s Goldeneyes have a fairly strong tendency to return to the same breeding area year after year.
Barrow’s and Common Goldeneyes will hybridize. Hybrid females can be difficult to identify as a hybrid. The white markings in front of the eye on the male is intermediate in shape between the crescent of the Barrow’s and the round shape on the Common Goldeneye.
Courtship display of male and female Barrow’s Goldeneyes. Photograph © Tom Grey.
Male Barrow’s have a blue to purple head with white crescent in front of the eye. Photograph © Alan Wilson.
Female Barrow’s has a yellow to orange bill, sometimes with dark markings. Note the white collar at the base of the neck. Photograph © Alan Wilson.
Adult male Barrow’s Goldeneye. Juvenile males are browner on the sides with a thinner white crescent in front of the eye. Photograph © Alan Wilson.
In flight, Barrow’s Goldeneye shows a white speculum with a separate white wing bar. Photograph © Glenn Bartley.
What a beautiful bird. Note the dark back with the white, parallel bands. The leading edge of the black back extends downward into the white flanks. Photograph © Glenn Bartley.
Calling all females! Photograph © Glenn Bartley.
He’s proud — she’s impressed! Photograph © Glenn Bartley.
The results? Barrow’s Goldeneye chicks. Photograph © Glenn Bartley.