Barrow's Goldeneye

ID Info
Silhouette DucksDucks

Barrow's Goldeneye

Bucephala islandica
  • ORDER: Anseriformes
  • FAMILY: Anatidae
Basic Description

Mostly a bird of wild northwestern landscapes, Barrow’s Goldeneyes are striking ducks. Males are crisp black-and-white, with a purplish head, a long white crescent on the face, and a row of white “windows” along the shoulder. Females are a cool gray with rich brown heads and usually a mostly orange-yellow bill. They nest in holes in trees (or in nest boxes) in remote boreal and montane forests—often in old nests of Northern Flickers or Pileated Woodpeckers. In winter and spring, males gather around females to perform acrobatic courtship displays.

More ID Info
image of range map for Barrow's GoldeneyeRange map provided by Birds of North AmericaExplore Maps

Find This Bird

Look for Barrow’s Goldeneyes on small, forested mountain lakes in summer, or along rocky ocean coasts in winter, or on inland lakes and rivers that remain free of ice. Scan groups of ducks and look for the distinctive, nearly triangular head shape to find goldeneyes. Then check the bill size, forehead shape, and the male’s facial crescent to identify Barrow’s from Common. A spotting scope is useful for enjoying these striking ducks to the fullest.

Other Names
  • Porrón Islándico (Spanish)
  • Garrot d'Islande (French)

Backyard Tips

If you live in the breeding range of Barrow’s Goldeneye, consider putting up a nest box to attract a breeding pair. Put it up in late winter, well before breeding season, and scatter wood shavings on the floor of the box. The box should be at least 13 inches deep, with entrance 5×4 inches, and the floor at least 7.5 inches across. It’s a good idea to attach a metal guard to keep predators from taking eggs and young. Find out more about Barrow’s Goldeneye nest boxes, including plans for building a nest box of the appropriate size on our All About Birdhouses site.

  • Cool Facts