Contributing Editor Kenn Kaufman provides tips for identifying birds in every issue of BirdWatching. In February 2014, he tells what to look for on Barrow’s Goldeneye (shown above) and offers the following thoughts about where to look for the duck in winter.
Most Barrow’s Goldeneyes nest in northwestern North America, and a few breed in the mountains south to Oregon and Wyoming. A small population nests in eastern Canada, and another group breeds in Iceland. In winter, the biggest numbers are along the northern Pacific coast. A few winter regularly south to Arizona and New England, however, and stragglers have reached as far south as Texas and Tennessee.
The southernmost regular wintering area for Barrow’s Goldeneye is along the lower Colorado River. No records were confirmed in the region until November 1974, when two Barrow’s were found downstream from Davis Dam on the Nevada border in far northwestern Arizona. By later that season, the flock had built up to more than 50 birds, and the species has wintered there ever since. A few years later, Barrow’s Goldeneyes were found even farther south, below Parker Dam on the Arizona-California border. This location, too, has continued to be a regular wintering site.
The population undoubtedly has developed in response to new kinds of habitats. Barrow’s Goldeneyes concentrate in areas just downstream from major dams, where the water released from the reservoirs is cold and deep, matching the conditions that the ducks found on rivers much farther north in the past.
Many of the same individuals have probably come back repeatedly. The duck apparently tends to be faithful to specific wintering sites. At Sandy Hook, New Jersey, one or two showed up almost every winter from the mid-1990s through 2010. Before that, a famous bird returned to Shark River Inlet, New Jersey, for 14 consecutive winters, from 1970 to 1983. If you are fortunate enough to discover a Barrow’s Goldeneye wintering in a new area, you may be able to enjoy it year after year! – Kenn Kaufman, Contributing Editor
About Kenn Kaufman
Kenn Kaufman is naturalist, artist, conservationist, speaker, and author of many books, including the Kaufman Field Guide series and the beloved memoir Kingbird Highway. In August 2013 he was elected a Fellow of the American Ornithologists’ Union. His column “ID Tips,” featuring the photographs of Brian E. Small, appears in every issue of BirdWatching. The article above is an excerpt of a column that ran in our February 2014 issue.