Bird of the Week


Photo courtesy Charles Martinez

The Barrow’s goldeneye is one of our winter ducks that spends only a few months in Pagosa Springs. Because it leaves its breeding grounds in the northwest, Canada and Alaska, late in the fall and returns early in the spring, this duck is usually only seen here from December through early March. The male is a handsome black-and-white duck distinguished by his purplish head with white crescent-shaped patch in front of a golden eye. Some of our local birders feel that the white shoulder patches on his black back resemble piano keys. The female is a grayish-brown bird with dark-brown head. Her bill is often, but not always, orangish with a black tip. Even experienced birders have a difficult time telling her apart from her cousin, the common goldeneye. These two species are often seen swimming together here. The Barrow’s goldeneye is a diving duck when feeding. Its diet consists of aquatic invertebrates, small fish and eggs, and pond vegetation. These ducks are usually silent, but their wings make a whistling sound in flight. Look for them on the open waters of the San Juan River through town and occasionally on shallow lakes late in the season.