First winter Common Goldeneye male

First winter Male Common Goldeneye in an icy pondFirst winter Male Common Goldeneye in an icy pond – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

Common Goldeneyes are diving sea ducks that over winter in the Salt Lake Valley where I see and photograph them at Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, along the causeway to Antelope Island State Park and at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area.  I photographed this first winter male Common Goldeneye a few days ago at Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area. By next winter; if he survives that long, he will have his full adult plumage.

The snow on the ground and the Phragmites reflected on the water is what created the delightful patterns around the Goldeneye.

Common Goldeneyes are cavity nesting ducks and I have seen them nesting in cavities on rocky cliffs in southwestern Montana. I admit it does look a bit strange to me to see a duck flying right towards a cliff wall to land and perch on  top of rocks.  They breed in the northern U.S. and in Canada.

Male Common Goldeneye partially submergedMale Common Goldeneye partially submerged – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

This image and the following one were taken as the Common Goldeneye came up from a dive, I like how the water covers the duck and how the head has a sheet of water over it. That golden eye certainly stands out well.

Common Goldeneye popping up from a diveCommon Goldeneye popping up from a dive – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/1250, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light

This frame, taken immediately after the one above shows how quickly the water is shed off of the ducks head.

Common Goldeneyes are also found in Scandinavia and Russia and are also found in Scotland and Britain, fortunately we don’t have to travel that far to see and photograph them!



  1. Utahbooklover December 16, 2013 at 11:40 am

    The first image is outstanding — especially love the “delightful patterns” on the water. And thanks for the info too.

  2. [email protected] December 16, 2013 at 12:58 am

    Love the water running over his head. 🙂 Goldeneyes are one of my favorite ducks … and I had no idea they were cavity nesters! Thanks for the information. When I lived in the Bay Area we saw mostly Common Goldeneyes but up here in the Northwest, quite a lot of Barrow’s. Always enjoy seeing those gorgeous golden eyes.

  3. Sonja Ross December 16, 2013 at 12:16 am

    It’s interesting seeing how water comes off birds like that.

  4. Patty Chadwick December 15, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    They are really elegant birds…love the “water babushka” effect in the second and third images. You and Ron allow me to see things I never could without you…Thanks!

  5. Jane Chesebrough December 15, 2013 at 6:37 pm

    great shots.

  6. Wally December 15, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    I really like the effect of the water “moving” over and around the duck! These are beautiful birds photographed superbly!

    Hope they survive the harsh winter.

  7. Elephant's Child December 15, 2013 at 11:55 am

    How nice to see where the phrase ‘like water off a duck’s back’ comes from. Thank you. Gorgeous bird. Gold stars – to match its eyes.

  8. Ricky L Jones December 15, 2013 at 7:13 am

    Handsome Goldeneye Mia!

  9. Montanagirl December 15, 2013 at 6:32 am

    We see them here too. Very nice photos, Mia.

  10. Bob Bushell December 15, 2013 at 5:11 am

    The Goldeneye is a superb bird, well done Mia.

Comments are closed.