Barrow's Goldeneye - Bucephala islandica
Medium-sized diving duck. Total length, early-spring mass: male 48.4 cm, 1,278 g; female 43.2 cm, 818 g. Compact, chunky appearance with short neck and round body, with relatively large rounded head and short gray-black bill. Adult sexes are strongly dimorphic in size and plumage most of the year. Breeding male has striking pattern of iridescent, purplish-black head with bright, white crescent-patch between bill and eye; brilliant white sides, breast, belly and secondaries contrasted against black back, wings, and tail. Female has dark chocolate-brown head; slate-gray back, wings, and tail; and white flanks, belly, and breast. Both sexes have bright amber irides (hence the name "goldeneye"). Wing-beat is rapid with relatively deep arc; produces a distinctive "whistle." (Eadie et al. 2000).
For a comprehensive review of the conservation status, habitat use, and ecology of this and other Montana bird species, please see Marks et al. 2016, Birds of Montana.
See Tobish (1987) for details on identification of Barrow's and Common Goldeneyes in all plumages.
Western Hemisphere Range
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
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Map Help and Descriptions
(direct evidence "B")
(indirect evidence "b")
No evidence of Breeding
(regular observations "W")
(at least one obs. "w")
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
Migration periods are centered around the first week in April in western Montana, and November 20 in the Bozeman area (Bergeron et al. 1992).
Chiefly a bird of the western montane region of North America. This species is generally restricted to areas west of the Continental Divide. Prefers alkaline to freshwater lakes in parkland areas; to lesser extent, subalpine and alpine lakes, beaver ponds, and small sloughs (Eadie et al. 2000).
Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
- Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
How Associations Were Made
We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
- Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
- Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
- Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
- Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.
In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.
However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if
point observations were associated with that system.
Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.
The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.
Suggested Uses and Limitations
Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.
These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: mtnhp.org/requests
) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.
Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.
Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.
Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).
Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.
- Adams, R.A. 2003. Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation. Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado. 289 p.
- Dobkin, D. S. 1992. Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34. Missoula, MT.
- Foresman, K.R. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
- Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998. Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates. Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT. 1302 p.
- Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young. 1999. Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32. 72 p.
- Maxell, B.A. 2000. Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species. Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1. Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana. 161 p.
- Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath. 2004. Amphibians and reptiles of Montana. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.
Aquatic invertebrates (insects, mollusks, crustaceans) and fish eggs. Seeds and tubers provide a small fraction of the diet (Eadie et al. 2000).
The most aggressive of the three Bucephala species; both males and females defend site-specific pair and brood territories, respectively. Pair bonds can be long-term, and males and females exhibit philopatry to breeding and wintering grounds. (Eadie et al. 2000)
Cavity nester; live or dead trees, but will infrequently nest in other sites, such as rock crevices or under tree stumps. Females with breeding experience exhibit high fidelity to previous nest sites. Eggs are elliptical to oval in shape. Bluish green to olive green in color. Smooth texture, slightly glossy. Clutch size ranges from 6 to 12 eggs (Eadie et al. 2000). Chicks less than one week old in the Fortine area were seen from May 29 to July 15. Brood size averaged eight.
Timber harvest has reduced the availability of suitable cavity trees for nesting; nest boxes are a useful tool to supplement natural cavities. Recreational activities on breeding lakes can lead to increased disturbance of broods. (Eadie et al. 2000)
- Literature Cited AboveLegend: View Online Publication
- Bergeron, D., C. Jones, D.L. Genter, and D. Sullivan. 1992. P.D. Skaar's Montana bird distribution, 4th edition. Special Publication no. 2. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena.
- Eadie, J.M., J.P.L. Savard, and M.L. Mallory. 2000. Barrow's Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica). Species Account Number 548. The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole, Ed.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology; Retrieved 3/25/2008 from The Birds of North America Online database
- Marks, J.S., P. Hendricks, and D. Casey. 2016. Birds of Montana. Arrington, VA. Buteo Books. 659 pages.
- Tobish, T. 1987. Separation of Barrow's and common goldeneyes in all plumages. Birding 18(1):17-27.
- Additional ReferencesLegend: View Online Publication
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- American Ornithologists’ Union [AOU]. 1998. Check-list of North American birds, 7th edition. American Ornithologists’ Union, Washington, D.C. 829 p.
- Bergeron, D., C. Jones, D.L. Genter, and D. Sullivan. 1992. P. D. Skaar's Montana Bird Distribution, Fourth Edition. Special Publication No. 2. Montana Natural Heritage Program, Helena. 116 pp.
- Casey, D. 2000. Partners in Flight Draft Bird Conservation Plan Montana. Version 1.0. 287 pp.
- Dickson, D.C. 1991. Systematic wildlife observations on the Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area. Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Missoula, MT. 14 pp. plus appendices and photographs.
- Ehrlich, P., D. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder’s handbook: a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon and Schuster Inc. New York. 785 pp.
- Johnsgard, P.A. 1979. Birds of the Great Plains: breeding species and their distribution. University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln. 539 pp.
- Johnsgard, P.A. 1992. Birds of the Rocky Mountains with particular reference to national parks in the northern Rocky Mountain region. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. xi + 504 pp.
- Lenard, S., J. Carlson, J. Ellis, C. Jones, and C. Tilly. 2003. P. D. Skaar’s Montana bird distribution, 6th edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, MT. 144 pp.
- Montana Bird Distribution Committee. 2012. P.D. Skaar's Montana bird distribution. 7th Edition. Montana Audubon, Helena, Montana. 208 pp. + foldout map.
- Oechsli, L.M. 2000. Ex-urban development in the Rocky Mountain West: consequences for native vegetation, wildlife diversity, and land-use planning in Big Sky, Montana. M.Sc. Thesis. Montana State University, Bozeman. 73 p.
- Palmer, R.S. 1962. Handbook of North American birds. Volume 1. Loons through flamingos. Yale University Press, New Haven. 567 pp.
- Ragnal, Wendy, and Troy Brandt, Wetland Services, Helena, MT., 1998, Tucker Crossing Ranch Wetland Mitigation Project for Montana Dept. of Transportation: Highway 93 - Hamilton to Lolo: 1998 - Year Two Monitoring Report - Addendum. In Tucker Crossing Site WS# Lower Clark Fork, Ravalli County. Fin.Dist.1 Admin. Dist.1
- Sibley, D. 2014. The Sibley guide to birds. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, NY. 598 pp.
- Skaar, P. D., D. L. Flath, and L. S. Thompson. 1985. Montana bird distribution. Montana Academy of Sciences Monograph 3(44): ii-69.
- Skaar, P.D. 1969. Birds of the Bozeman latilong: a compilation of data concerning the birds which occur between 45 and 46 N. latitude and 111 and 112 W. longitude, with current lists for Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, impinging Montana counties and Yellowstone National Park. Bozeman, MT. 132 p.
- U.S. Forest Service. 1991. Forest and rangeland birds of the United States: Natural history and habitat use. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Agricultural Handbook 688. 625 pages.
- USDI Fish and Wildlife Service., 1961, A Detailed report on fish and wildlife resources affected by McNamara Dam and Reservoir, Blackfoot River Project, Montana. June 1961.
- Additional Sources of Information Related to "Birds"