Identification of molting locations of adult female Barrow’s Goldeneye in eastern North America

Project Number: 119
Year Funded: 2009
Lead Institution(s): Environment and Climate Change Canada
Project Lead: Jean-Pierre Savard
Location: Atlantic Flyway
Focal Species: Barrow’s Goldeneye (Bucephala islandica)
Project Description: Concern over the status of the eastern population of Barrow’s Goldeneyes (Bucephala islandica) was already present more than a decade ago (Savard 1996; Savard and Robert 1997; Savard and Dupuis 1999) and eventually led to the listing of this population as a Species of Special Concern by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada in the year 2000. The species has since been listed as Threatened in Maine (MIFW 2008), as Vulnerable in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador (Schmelzer 2006), and as a Threatened or Vulnerable Vertebrate Wildlife Species Likely to be so Designated (Gazette officielle du Québec 2003) in accordance with the Quebec Act respecting threatened or vulnerable species (R.S.Q. c. E-12.01). Although much has been learned about the distribution and ecology of the eastern population of Barrow’s Goldeneyes in the last decade (Robert et al. 2000, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2008, Robert and Savard 2000, 2006; Bourget et al. 2007; Savard and Robert 2007), molting sites used by adult female Barrow’s Goldeneyes are still unknown (Eadie et al. 2000; Robert et al. 2000; Environment Canada in prep.). This is a crucial piece of information to insure full protection of the population, especially as it is estimated that there are less than 2000 adult females in the population (Robert and Savard 2006). Molting female goldeneyes have been observed on a few inland lakes as well as in several areas of the St. Lawrence estuary (MR; JPLS unpublished observations) but they were likely Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula) females. During molt, both species are extremely difficult to distinguish at a distance. Molting areas are quite important in the annual cycle of waterfowl as birds become flightless for about 3-4 weeks during that period (Hohman et al. 1992; Van de Wetering 1997; Van de Wetering and Cooke 2000). Several molting sites of adult Barrow’s Goldeneye males have been located in Quebec and Labrador and all are hundreds of kilometers north of the breeding areas (Robert et al. 2000, 2002). It is unknown whether the same sites are used by females. In British Columbia males and females seem to use different sites (Sean Boyd, unpubl. data). Determination of whether Common and Barrow’s Goldeneye females molt in the same areas may also have important implications in terms of hunting management. Finally, if like breeding birds, molting females concentrate on fishless lakes it is urgent to locate them and insure their protection against fish introduction for anglers (Savard 2003; Robert et al. 2008).
Project Reports:
Identification of molting locations of adult female Barrow’s Goldeneye in eastern North America