Barrow's Goldeneye


Bucephala islandica

Status:  Rare regular winter visitor North Platte River Valley, rare casual east. Rare casual spring and fall migrant statewide.

Documentation: Photograph:  19 Apr 1987 Keystone Lake, Keith Co (Mollhoff 1989).

Taxonomy:  No subspecies are recognized.   See comments under Common Goldeneye regarding hybridization with that species.

Spring:  winter <<<>>> Mar 28, 30, Apr 1

There is a later date 5-19 Apr 1987 Keith Co, a male and possible female photographed (Rosche 1994, Brogie and Brogie 1987).

Most records are from the North Platte River Valley, although there are six records from the east: 2-15 Mar 2013 Carter Lake, Omaha, Douglas Co, 3 Mar 1997 female at Cunningham Lake, Douglas Co (Brogie 1998), 4-14 Mar 1984 Douglas-Sarpy Cos, 21-28 Mar 1988 Lancaster Co, 25 Mar 1951 Douglas Co, and 1 Apr 1951 Antelope Co.

Although there is a small Eastern Population of Barrow’s Goldeneye that breeds no closer than the eastern Great Lakes (Baldassarre 2014), it seems more likely that easterly southern Great Plains reports of this species in spring and winter (, accessed 19 Aug 2017), including Nebraska, are derived from the extensive Rocky Mountains range of the Western Population. . In spring, records suggest Barrow’s Goldeneyes from southern Great Plains locations follow the Missouri River northward; three of four Iowa spring records are from western Iowa (Kent and Dinsmore 1996), and all five spring records from South Dakota are east of the Missouri River (Tallman et al 2002).

Fall:  Nov 13, 14, 15 <<<>>> winter

There are two earlier dates: 30 Oct 1990 Scotts Bluff Co (Grenon 1991) and 5-26 Nov 1982 Scotts Bluff Co.

Away from the North Platte River Valley, there are four reports, all from the east: 13 Nov 1986 one shot at Branched Oak Lake, Lancaster Co (NGPC files), a male 15 Nov 2002 Cunningham Lake, Omaha, 25 Nov 1995 Hall Co, and 29 Nov-1 Dec 2015 a female videographed at Olive Creek Reservoir, Lancaster Co.

See comments under Spring regarding provenance of birds reported in eastern Nebraska.

WinterThere are about 23 records 14 Nov-25 Mar in Keith Co of birds wintering with the Common Goldeneye flock below Kingsley Dam, as well as these additional records from the North Platte River Valley: 2-3 from 11 Dec 2004-18 Feb 2005 Scotts Bluff Co, 15 Dec 2007 Scottsbluff SL, Scotts Bluff Co, 15-15 Dec 2018 North Platte, Lincoln Co, a male and female at Sutherland Reservoir, Lincoln Co 18 Dec 1997, two at North Platte SL 22 Dec 2019-5 Jan 2020,  a female at Scottsbluff SL 24 Dec 2013-21 Jan 2014, 31 Dec 2019 Gering, Scotts Bluff Co, an immature male at Sutherland Reservoir 10 Jan 2015, a male photographed near North Platte, Lincoln Co 21-22 Jan 2010, a male near North Platte 23 Jan 2008, a male at Gering SL, Scotts Bluff Co 16 Feb 2018, a female at Scottsbluff SL 19 Feb 2013, one in an NPPD canal in North Platte 21-22 Feb 2020, and a female at Scottsbluff SL 27 Feb 2007.

Away from the North Platte River Valley, the only records are of one at DeSoto NWR, Washington Co 7 Dec 1988- 8 Jan 1989 (Silcock 1989), one in Knox Co 14-21 Dec 2018, and one in Buffalo Co 20 Feb 1995 (, accessed 19 Aug 2017).

  • High counts:  5 at Keystone Lake, Keith Co 5 Feb 2000, and 4 wintering there 2000-2001.


NGPC: Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
NWR: National Wildlife Refuge
SL: Sewage Lagoons


Photograph (top) of aBarrow’s Goldeneye in the Nebraska Public Power District canal near North Platte, Lincoln Co 21 Feb 2020 by Boni Edwards.

Literature Cited

Baldassarre, G. 2014. Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North America. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

Brogie, M.A. 1998. 1997 (Ninth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 66: 147-159.

Brogie, M.A., and E.M. Brogie. 1987. Barrow’s Goldeneye in Keith County, Nebraska. NBR 55: 44.

Grenon, A.G. 1991. 1991 (Fourth) Report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 59: 150-155.

Kent, T.H., and J.J. Dinsmore. 1996. Birds in Iowa. Publshed by the authors, Iowa City and Ames, Iowa, USA.

Mollhoff, W.J. 1989. Second report of the NOU Records Committee. NBR 57: 42-47.

Rosche, R.C. 1994. Birds of the Lake McConaughy area and the North Platte River valley, Nebraska.  Published by the author, Chadron, Nebraska, USA.

Silcock, W.R. 1989. Barrow’s Goldeneye at DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge. Iowa Bird Life 59: 89-90.

Tallman, D.A., Swanson, D.L., and J.S. Palmer. 2002. Birds of South Dakota. Midstates/Quality Quick Print, Aberdeen, South Dakota, USA.

Recommended Citation

Silcock, W.R., and J.G. Jorgensen.  2020.  Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 27 Mar 2020