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Barrow's Goldeneye


IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

A medium-sized black-and-white diving duck, the Barrow's Goldeneye was originally described from a population living in Iceland. It is, however, primarily a duck of the western mountains of North America.


Typical Voice

Adult Description

  • Medium-sized diving duck.
  • Chunky body.
  • Large head.
  • Male white with black back and head, and crescent-shaped white spot on face.

Male Description

Breeding (Alternate) Plumage: Head purplish-black. Bright crescent-shaped white patch on side of face at base of bill, thin at top, rounded at bottom. Sides, breast, belly, and secondaries bright white. Back, wings, and tail black. Black of back reaching onto shoulder. Series of white squares along sides above wings. Short, triangular black bill. Eyes golden yellow.
Nonbreeding (Basic) Plumage: like female, but with some black tinge at sides.

Female Description

Head chocolate brown. Back, wings, and tail slaty gray. Flanks, belly, and breast white. Eyes pale yellow to white. Short, triangular bill mostly yellow.

Immature Description

Immature similar to female. First winter male similar to adult male, but has browner head, gray sides and chest, and smaller and less distinct white crescent on face.

Range Map Help

View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Breeding male

    Barrow's Goldeneye

    Breeding male
    • © Nick Dean, Mukilteo, Washington, January 2013
  • Female

    Barrow's Goldeneye

    • © Raymond Lee, Elk Island NP, Alberta, Canada, June 2011
  • Male breeding

    Barrow's Goldeneye

    Male breeding
    • © Raymond Lee, Elk Island NP, Alberta, Canada, May 2011
  • Female

    Barrow's Goldeneye

    • © Nick Dean, Mukilteo, Washington, January 2013
  • Breeding male with female

    Barrow's Goldeneye

    Breeding male with female
    • © Raymond Lee, Elk Island NP, Alberta, Canada, May 2013

Similar Species

  • Common Goldeneye very similar. Male Common Goldeneye has round white patch on face, more white on secondaries, less black on the back that does not extend onto the shoulder, a more peaked, greenish head, and a larger bill. Female Common Goldeneye has less rounded head, and a larger bill with less extensive yellow, usually confined to the tip.
  • Male Bufflehead is smaller, with a larger white patch on face that is at the rear of the face, not at the base of the bill.

    Backyard Tips

    Consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Make sure you put it up well before breeding season. Attach a guard to keep predators from raiding eggs and young. Find out more about nest boxes on our Attract Birds pages. You'll find plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.



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