Common Goldeneyes Have Started Their Courtship Displays

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Drake Common Goldeneye in full breeding plumageDrake Common Goldeneye in full breeding plumage – Nikon D500, f8, 1/2000, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I’m seeing plenty of goldeneyes around right now and I have also begun to see the male Common Goldeneyes performing their courtship displays. Yesterday at my local pond I photographed two male Common Goldeneyes that were fairly close, one drake was in full breeding plumage and the other was a first winter male. The male in breeding plumage acted aggressively towards the first winter male a few times but for the majority of the time I photographed them they were actively hunting for food among the geese, ducks and coots. It was challenging to obtain images where the goldeneyes were isolated from the other birds.

Alert male Common Goldeneye in breeding plumageAlert male Common Goldeneye in breeding plumage – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1600, ISO 400, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Male Common Goldeneyes exhibit their complex breeding behavior for several months to form pair bonds with the females. A large percentage of Common Goldeneyes have already formed pair bonds before they arrive on their breeding grounds. Even the hens participate in the courtship display and have some moves of their own.

Common Goldeneyes do not nest in northern Utah, they breed mainly in boreal forests in Canada and Alaska but I have seen them breed at an alpine lake in southwestern Montana using a hole in a cliff face as a nesting cavity. Common Goldeneyes nest in natural cavities in live and dead trees and like Wood Ducks they will use man made nest boxes too.

I couldn’t get close to the Common Goldeneyes that were performing their courtship displays yesterday afternoon but I sure hope I will be able to before they head north to breed. Not only are these ducks beautiful to see their elaborate courtship display are fascinating to observe.

Life is good.



Common Goldeneyes breeding display, Salt Lake County, Utah


  1. Jane Chesebrough January 4, 2017 at 5:18 pm

    Already! I have had lots of laughs watching the drakes as well as the hens after the hatching.Guess it is good to keep it up to stay limber.

  2. Elephant's Child January 4, 2017 at 1:00 pm

    Beautiful things. And I can (for a change) see where their name comes from.

  3. Patty Chadwick January 4, 2017 at 9:00 am

    Beautiful image of an elegant bird…the pewter-colored water is a perfect background…

  4. Marie Read January 4, 2017 at 7:19 am

    Those “head-throw” courtship displays are SO cool!

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