Barrow's Goldeneye birds fly close to surface of water for some time after the running takeoff typical of diving ducks. Not as gregarious as many other waterfowl. Relatively tame. In western mountains may nest as high as 10,000 feet above sea level.
The forehead rises abruptly from a short triangular bill to a crown that appears flattened, and the nape is puffy. Female bill color varies with season and may be mostly dark with a yellow tip in the winter; the amount of yellow gradually increases to the point the bill may be entirely yellow or have dark.
Male: White flanks; dark back and head; clear white crescent in front of the eye. In perfect lighting, head looks glossy purple.
Female: A grayish duck with a white collar and dark brown head. Bill mostly yellow-orange in western birds; dark with yellow tip in eastern birds.
Immature: Both sexes similar to female at first. Male gradually develops adult wing and facial pattern. Immature plumage kept 1 year.
Nest: Uses tree cavities or nest boxes, but also can nest in rock crevice or on the ground.
Eggs: 8-10, olive-green.
Incubation: 30-32 days, by female. First flight at 56 days.
Fledging: 56 days.
Food: Eats mollusks, crustaceans, fish, aquatic insects. Young tended by female but find own food.
Voice: Males give grunting and clicking notes. Females mostly silent.
Habitat: Summers on wooded lakes and rivers; winters on estuaries or coastal lakes.
In Flight: Large white speculum area bisected by dark bar, and note facial crescent of male.
Breeding: 1 brood per year. Monogamous.
Courtship: During courtship male utters kitten-like squeals and muted grunts.