Below are examples of barnacles you will run across on Oregon’s exposed rocky shores or washed up on the beaches. The photos on this page are from northern Oregon unless noted in the caption. My organization follows Lamb and Hanby (2005). Common names are my choice. I refer to WoRMS for scientific names, and I learn a ton by browsing the natural history riches in Kozloff (1993). Experts cover barnacles in the books, field guides, and online resources at the bottom of the page.
Balanus glandula, acorn barnacle
Acorns are the most noticeable high intertidal barnacle. They’ll inflict a scratch if you aren’t careful.
Balanus nubilus, giant barnacle
Look for giants in the low intertidal or lower.
Semibalanus cariosus, thatched barnacle
If you’re looking for thatched barnacles, mussel beds are an excellent place to start.
Pollicipes polymerus, gooseneck barnacle (also goose, leaf)
On the exposed coast, goosenecks can be prominent in mussel beds. They can be found below the mussel beds and pioneer higher into the high intertidal where surge and splash conditions allow it.
Sometimes you’ll see exposed Pollicipes showing off quite a bit of red. I have a sense that red goosenecks are more prevalent in sheltered or low-zone settings, but I can’t say for sure. I wrote about the reddest goosenecks I’ve come across in Pollicipes, Magical in the Morning.
Some gulls make a point of exploring exposed clusters of Pollicipes polymerus, and they will sometimes eat them. Large Larus gulls pluck them off the rocks without much trouble. Thus, it’s not unusual to find regurgitated plates, capitulums, and even more or less whole barnacles, including their stalks.
Redtail surfperch are a Pollicipes predator I hadn’t thought of until I found one had eaten these.
You can occasionally find Pollicipes polymerus among sea wrack, but you’ve got to move quick to beat the gulls to it.
Gotshall, D. W. 2005. Guide to Marine Invertebrates, Alaska to Baja California 2nd Edition (Revised). Shoreline Press.
Harbo, R. M. 2011. Whelks to Whales: Coastal Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. 2nd ed. Harbour Publishing Co.
Kozloff, E. N. 1993. Seashore Life of the Northern Pacific Coast. 3rd ed. University of Washington Press.
Lamb, A. and B. P. Hanby. 2005. Marine Life of the Pacific Northwest. Harbour Publishing.
Sept. J. D. 2019. The New Beachcomber’s Guide to the Pacific Northwest. Harbour Publishing.
Biodiversity of the Central Coast’s Crustaceans page is full of great information on Pacific Northwest barnacles. Accessed 01/12/2023.
Friends of Netarts Bay WEBS Crustaceans page. Accessed 01/12/2023.
Pacific Northwest Shell Club’s Crustacean page. Accessed 11/07/2022.
It’s worth scrolling down to barnacles in Common Sea Life of Southeastern Alaska: A field guide by Aaron Baldwin & Paul Norwood. Accessed 01/12/2023.
Cowles, D. (2005). Balanus glandula Darwin, 1854. Invertebrates of the Salish Sea. Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory. Accessed 11/07/2022.
Cowles, D. (2006). Semibalanus cariosus (Pallas, 1788). Invertebrates of the Salish Sea. Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory. Accessed 11/07/2022.
Cowles, D. (2006). Balanus nubilus Darwin, 1854. Invertebrates of the Salish Sea. Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory. Accessed 11/07/2022.
McFadden, M., Helmstetler, H., and D. Cowles (2007). Pollicipes polymerus (Sowerby, 1833). Balanus nubilus Darwin, 1854. Invertebrates of the Salish Sea. Rosario Beach Marine Laboratory. Accessed 11/07/2022.
I updated this page on November 14, 2022