Barrow's goldeneye | American birds

   ›      ›   Barrow's goldeneye - Bucephala islandica

The Barrow's goldeneye (Bucephala islandica) belongs to the family of ducks, geese, swans and goldeneyes, the Anatidae.

The Barrow's goldeneye is distributed in the USA, Canada, Iceland and Greenland. This goldeneye species was named after Sir John Barrow, an English statesman and writer. This goldeneye is a monotypic species.

Overview & Quick Facts Description & Identification
Pictures of Barrow's Goldeneye Distribution & Range
Ecosystem & Habitat Diet & Feeding Behavior
Breeding Habits Migration & Movement Patterns
Conservation & Survival IUCN Status
Taxonomy & Classification Bird World

Appearance, physical description and identification

The Barrow's goldeneye (Bucephala islandica) is a medium-sized goldeneye, measuring 40 to 50 cm in length and weighing 600 to 1300 grams. The males are larger than the females. The wingspan is 70 to 80 cm.

The male Barrow's goldeneye has black upperparts and tail. The head, nape, crown, neck and throat are black with purple gloss. There is a crescent shaped white patch on the face.

The wings are black and have white patches. The breast and the underparts are white. The females have bluish gray head and pale gray body with striations.

The bill is short and colored black in males and yellowish-orange in females. The irises are pale to dark yellow. The legs and feet are orange yellow. Their call is a burping, grunting or croaking sound.
Birds of North America - Image of Barrow's goldeneye - Bucephala islandica
1.Birds of North America - Image of Barrow's goldeneye - Bucephala islandica by Rick Leche

Birds of North America - Image of Barrow's goldeneye female - Bucephala islandica
2.Birds of North America - Image of Barrow's goldeneye female - Bucephala islandica by Donna Dewhurst

Birds of North America - Image of Barrow's goldeneye - Bucephala islandica
3.Birds of North America - Image of Barrow's goldeneye - Bucephala islandica by Mike Prince

Origin, geographical range and distribution

The Barrow's goldeneye species are distributed in USA, Canada, Greenland and Iceland. Vagrant birds are observed in United Kingdom, France, Germany, Spain, Norway, Russia, Serbia and South Korea.

The Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) of these Barrow's goldeneye species in USA are Prince William Sound, Glacier Bay and Icy Strait.

The IBA of these goldeneye species in Iceland are, Veidivötn, Apavatn-Laugarvatn, Sog, Brúará and Mývatn-Laxá. The IBA in Canada are English Bay and Burrard Inlet.

Ecosystem and habitat

The Barrow's goldeneye species have moderate forest dependence. They normally occur in altitudes from 0 to 3000 meters.

The natural ecosystems and habitats of these goldeneye species include boreal forests, temperates forests, coastal marine lakes, tidepools, shallow seas with macroalgae and freshwater lakes.

Diet and feeding behavior

The diet of this Barrow's goldeneye species consists mainly of molluscs and crustaceans. Mussels, gastropods, amphipods, crustaceans, aquatic insects, insect larvae and aquatic vegetation are their primary food.

Reproduction and breeding habits

The breeding season of these Barrow's goldeneye species is from May in most of their breeding range. These species are monogamous and territorial. The mating pairs reunite at the wintering grounds.

The nesting sites include natural holes in the ground, tree-holes in mature trees and nest boxes. The clutch contains 8 to 10 white eggs.

Migration and movement patterns

These Barrow's goldeneye species are partially migratory birds. Breeding populations occurring in Alaska and western Canada migrate to Pacific coasts of Canada and northern USA for wintering.

The goldeneye breeding populations in eastern Canada (Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador) winter in the coasts of the nearby islands.

The Barrow's goldeneye populations in Iceland are sedentary. Post breeding, the juveniles may disperse and establish in new locations within the range. Within their range they may make local movements for feeding and breeding.

Barrow's goldeneye - Quick Facts

  • Scientific name: Bucephala islandica
  • Species author: (Gmelin, 1789)
  • Synonyms/Protonym: Anas islandica Gmelin, 1789
  • Family: Anatidae › Anseriformes › Aves › Chordata › Animalia
  • Vernacular names: English: Barrow's goldeneye, Chinese: 巴氏鹊鸭, French: Garrot d’Islande, German: Spatelente, Spanish: Porrón islándico, Russian: Исландский гоголь, Japanese: キタホオジロガモ
  • Other names: Barrow's Goldeneye
  • Distribution: USA, Canada, Iceland, Greenland
  • Diet and feeding habits: invertebrates, insects, insect larvae, mussels, gastropods, crustaceans, plant material
  • IUCN status listing: Least Concern (LC)

Conservation and survival

The global population size of the Barrow's goldeneye (Bucephala islandica) is estimated to number about 200,000 mature individual birds. The overall population trend of the species is considered to be increasing.

In most of its range, this goldeneye species is reported as common to uncommon. The generation length is 8.1 years. Its distribution size is about 16,900,000

Habitat alteration, human activities, deforestation, oil-spills, climate change, hunting, egg collection and capture for pet-trade are the main threats that are endangering the survival of this goldeneye species.

IUCN and CITES status

The Barrow's goldeneye (Bucephala islandica) does not approach the thresholds for being Vulnerable either under the range size criterion, or under the population trend criterion or under the population size criterion.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has categorized and evaluated the goldeneye species and has listed it as of "Least Concern".

The CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) status is ‘Not Evaluated’ for the Barrow's goldeneye (Bucephala islandica).
Taxonomy and scientific classification of Bucephala islandica
Species:B. islandica
Binomial name:Bucephala islandica
IUCN status listing:
Least Concern
The Barrow's goldeneye (Bucephala islandica) is closely related to common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula).
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1.Barrow's goldeneye image source: (cropped)
Image author: Rick Leche | License: CC BY-NC 2.0 as on 7/5/18
2.Image source: (cropped)
Image author: Donna Dewhurst | License: Public domain
3.Image source: (cropped)
Image author: Mike Prince | License: CC BY 2.0 as on 7/5/18
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