Thursday, March 7, 2013

Encountering Barrow's Goldeneyes in Salt Lake County

While taking a brief walk along the Jordan River Parkway Trail near Sandy Pond in Salt Lake County on February 18th I was able to capture decent images of Barrow's Goldeneyes. We see countless Common Goldeneyes in Utah and Salt Lake Counties during the winter months. Barrow's Goldeneyes, however, are not "common" (because they are Barrow's right?) so it is always a fun exercise to scan through the Commons in hopes of finding the surprise Barrow's Goldeneye.  Male Barrow's stand out quickly with their big white tear-drop patches at the base of their bills, but females can be challenging to spot because they are very similar in appearance to female Commons.  With my recent encounter I was fortunate to have a handsome male catch my attention initially. As I watched him I realized he had a female companion sticking closely by his side. Her bill was mostly yellow rather than mostly dark with a yellow tip that you see with Commons. She also had the steeply sloped forehead associated with Barrow's.

Male and Female Barrow's Goldeneye on Jordan River in Sandy, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
Male and Female Barrow's Goldeneye on Jordan River in Sandy, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)
The image below introduces a third Goldeneye that I believe is also a Barrow's. It never strayed more than a few feet from the adult male and female. Over time I watched the Commons go one way while the Barrow's went another. Each time this younger duck went with the two adult Barrow's. According to my Sibley app young female Barrow's Goldeneyes should show yellow on their bills by around December. This image was captured in February. This young duck is showing some lightening of the bill color at the tip so it may be the beginning of the yellowing of the bill.  Other 1st-winter males that have been seen in the river are already showing the beginnings of the white crescent at the base of their bills. I and a few local birders lean toward this one being a 1st-winter female Barrow's. I'd love to get some feedback on this if you have experience with young Barrow's.

Adult Male and Female Barrow's Goldeneye with Possible 1st Winter Barrow's Goldeneye on Jordan River, Sandy, UT
(Photo by Jeff Cooper)
This final image captures the male Barrow's Goldeneye as it picks up speed to take flight from the Jordan River.

Adult Male Barrow's Goldeneye Taking Flight on Jordan River in Sandy, UT (Photo by Jeff Cooper)


  1. Ah very cool! One can see why they'd inspire a James Bone villain/plot.

    1. They do have a determined, sort of sinister, look with that forward-leaning forehead.