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Barrow’s Goldeneye, Bucephala islandica

Goldeneyes in water

Barrow’s Goldeneyes can be found in freshwater habitats across North America, particularly in the western and northern regions. During the breeding season, they are primarily found in the boreal forests of Alaska and Canada, as well as parts of the Rocky Mountains. In winter, they migrate to more temperate regions, including coastal areas and large lakes throughout the United States and Mexico.

Barrow’s Goldeneye prefers habitats with clear, deep freshwater or brackish water bodies. They hunt by diving underwater. They are agile divers and can quickly propel themselves underwater using their strong wings and feet to catch prey. They feed on aquatic invertebrates such as insects, crustaceans, and mollusks. They also consume small fish and plant matter like seeds and aquatic vegetation.

They are also known for their distinctive courtship displays, where the males bob their heads and make low-pitched calls to attract females.

Barrow’s Goldeneyes select cavities in mature trees for nesting, often at considerable heights, sometimes more than 30 feet above the ground. They may also use artificial nest boxes or natural tree hollows. The female constructs the nest using various materials like down feathers, twigs, and leaves. The nest is usually located near water bodies, such as lakes, rivers, or ponds, where the female has easy access to food.

Females typically lay 6-12 creamy-white eggs. Incubation, which is primarily carried out by the female, lasts for approximately 28-32 days. During this period, the male leaves the female and joins other males in small groups. Once the eggs hatch, the female leads the ducklings to the water shortly after birth, where they quickly learn to swim and dive.

Barrow’s Goldeneye chicks feed themselves shortly after hatching, diving underwater to find food alongside their mother. The female provides protection and guidance to the young for several weeks until they become independent. The fledging period, which is the time it takes for the young ducks to develop their flight feathers, ranges from 50 to 60 days.

During winter, Barrow’s Goldeneye undertakes migrations from its breeding grounds to more southerly locations. They can be found along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts of the United States, as well as in parts of Mexico. Their winter ranges include coastal bays, estuaries, large lakes, and sometimes even offshore habitats.

Hobbyist-naturalists who provide duck boxes using advanced management methods have achieved greatly reduced duckling mortality rates, compared to naturally chosen cavities that are much more vulnerable to predators. See Duck Boxes Here