Can you tell the difference between a Common and a Barrow's Goldeneye?

You Need To! There is No Open Hunting Season for the Barrow’s Goldeneye!

Barrow’s Goldeneye is now a Threatened Species. In May 2007, the Maine Legislature listed the Barrow’s Goldeneye as a Threatened Species in Maine based upon the recommendation of the Commissioner of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The species met the established criteria for listing, because they are potentially vulnerable to extirpation from Maine due to their very small wintering population (believed to be less than 250 birds). Barrow’s Goldeneyes are found in low numbers on certain large lakes, rivers, and coastal areas throughout Maine, normally from November – March.

Take of a Barrow’s Goldeneye is illegal. Because the Barrow’s Goldeneye is now a Threatened Species in Maine, the law prohibits their “take” (“…the act or omission that results in the death of any endangered or threatened species.”).

The Problem: Because Barrow’s and Common Goldeneyes look very similar (see photos), a waterfowl season that allows the harvest of Common Goldeneyes may result in the unintentional harvest of Barrow’s Goldeneyes.

The Solution: The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife developed an Incidental Take Plan to allow for the continued lawful take of Common Goldeneyes. The plan is designed to reduce the unintentional take of Barrow’s Goldeneyes by improving the duck hunter’s ability to distinguish Barrow’s from Common Goldeneyes and by alerting them that Barrow’s Goldeneyes are known to congregate in certain areas (see map below). As in any hunting situation, it is imperative that the hunter be certain of his/her target before discharging a firearm.

What to do if you unintentionally shoot a Barrow’s Goldeneye

A few Barrow’s Goldeneyes may be unintentionally shot. In these cases, hunters are required to surrender any Barrow’s Goldeneye killed incidentally to legal waterfowl hunting activities. The bird must be surrendered to the Department within one month of when it was shot by contacting a local game warden or calling the Wildlife Division in Bangor at (207) 941-4466 to coordinate a pick-up. There will be no penalty for killing a Barrow’s and reporting it to the Department.

Male and female Barrow's Goldeneye Common Goldeneyes

Photos courtesy of Tim Bowman, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Features to look for

Barrow’s male (left photo) has a white body, black back, and black-appearing head, similar to the male Common (right photo), but more black on its sides, a stubbier bill, and crescent shaped, rather than round, white spot in front of eye. Barrow’s tend to have a steeper forehead than Commons.

Barrow’s female (left photo) is very similar to Common (right photo), but has an orange-yellow bill.

Map showing where Barrow’s Goldeneyes are known to congregate.

Download the map (PDF)