A Management Plan for Barrows Goldeneye Bucephala islandica Eastern Population

Schmelzer, I.
Department of Environment and Conservation Wildlife Division NL,
Publication Date: 

The world distribution of Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica) consists of three
separate populations: 150 000 to 200 000 birds in western North America (Eadie et al 2000),
a resident population of 2000 in Iceland (Gardarsson 1978), and approximately 4500 birds in
eastern North America (Savard and Dupuis 1999; Robert et al 2000a). The breeding range is
discontinuous in North America and is largely restricted to northwestern North America, where
more than 90% of the world’s population breeds (del Hoyo et al 1992). Little is known of the
distribution and ecology of the eastern North American population. During winter and early
spring, approximately 4000 birds congregate in two main regions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence
and about 10% winter elsewhere in Atlantic Canada and Maine (Robert et al 2000a; Savard
1990; Robert and Savard in Prep). Prior to the late 1990s, it was believed that ducks wintering
in northeastern North America originated from arctic breeding areas in northern Labrador and
southwestern Greenland (Palmer 1976; Godfrey 1986). However a telemetry study conducted in
the late 1990s showed that most birds bred on small, fishless, high elevation lakes along the
north shore of the St. Lawrence estuary (Robert et al 2000b).
Concern with respect to the susceptibility of the eastern population to a catastrophic oil
spill given their small population size and aggregated distribution during winter, and
commercial logging in areas suspected to contain breeding birds, was first expressed during the
mid 1990s (Savard and Robert 1997; Savard and Dupuis 1999). In November 2000 the eastern
North American population was assessed as a species of ‘‘Special Concern’ by the Committee
on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada because of threats faced by the birds on their
wintering and breeding grounds. The Province of Newfoundland and Labrador lists Barrow’s
Goldeneye (Eastern population) as a ‘Vulnerable’ species under the Endangered Species Act (NL
ESA E-10.1, 2001), and they are listed as a species of ‘Special Concern’ under the federal
Species at Risk Act (SARA, Schedule 3). The Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Center has
assessed the conservation status of Barrow’s Goldeneye as S1N (‘Critically Imperiled’ due to
extreme rarity, non-breeding) in Newfoundland and as S2S3B? in Labrador (‘Imperiled’ or
‘Vulnerable’ because it is an uncommon species and molting birds occur in restricted areas,
breeding status unknown)1. Finally, Barrow’s Goldeneyes are protected under the Canada-U.S.
Migratory Birds Convention and associated regulations pertaining to hunting.

Citation Information: 
Schmelzer, I. (2006) A management plan for Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica; Eastern population) in Newfoundland and Labrador. Wildlife Division, Department of Environment and Conservation. Corner Brook, NL.