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 <<<>>> Feb 22, 23, 25

Most records are from the North Platte River Valley. There are later dates, most from eastern Nebraska: 1 Mar 2013 Scotts Bluff Co, 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, 6-7 Mar and 29 Mar 2021 Gavin’s Point Dam, Knox and Cedar Cos, 17 Mar 2019 Lincoln Co, 21-28 Mar 1988 Lancaster Co, 25 Mar 1951 Douglas Co, 1 Apr 1951 Antelope Co and 5-19 Apr 1987 Keith Co, a male and possible female photographed (Rosche 1994, Brogie and Brogie 1987).

Although there is a small Eastern Population of Barrow’s Goldeneye that breeds no closer than the eastern Great Lakes (Baldassarre 2014), it is unknown whether eastern Great Plains records are from this population or are lingering birds from the Rocky Mountains, perhaps immature non-breeders. 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:  Dec 14, 15, 15<<<>>> winter

There are earlier North Platte River Valley dates: 30 Oct 1990 Scotts Bluff Co (Grenon 1991), 5-26 Nov 1982 Scotts Bluff Co, and two on 18-26 Nov 2020 Lincoln 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 at Olive Creek Reservoir, Lancaster Co.

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

WinterThere are about 23 records 16 Dec-26 Feb in Keith Co of birds wintering with the Common Goldeneye flock below Kingsley Dam, and 14 additional records elsewhere in the North Platte River Valley.

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 a Barrow’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.  2021.  Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica). In Birds of Nebraska — Online.

Birds of Nebraska – Online

Updated 28 May 2021