Drake Common Goldeneye Courtship Display in Low Light

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Drake Common Goldeneye courtship display - Head-throwDrake Common Goldeneye courtship display – Head-throw – Nikon D500, f6.3, 1/1000, ISO 400, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

One year ago today the light was low and dreary because of clouds hanging over the Salt Lake Valley but I had cabin fever and had to get outside so I went to see what was happening at the local pond. There were plenty of ducks on the water that day and among them were several Common Goldeneyes.

I’ve noticed that the wild ducks, and by wild I mean species other than mallards, will come closer to me when the light is awful, I wish I knew why they don’t normally approach as closely when the light is much better, I guess it could have something to do with hunting season though. I’m glad they come close any time but prefer it when the light is better than it was a year ago today.

I noticed one of the drake Common Goldeneyes assume a Head-forward posture and aimed my lens at him because I knew that was part of this species courtship display and even though the light was low I wanted to photograph some of the courtship behavior. Because I had noticed the Common Goldeneye drake’s behavior I was able to photograph him as he assumed the Head-throw posture.

Oh, how I wish the light had been better that day to pick up more of the dark green iridescence on his head, I had to tease the greens to show when I processed this image by lightening up some of the shadows. If the sun had been shining the greens on this drake’s head would have positively glowed.

The Common Goldeneyes that had been at the pond in December and January this winter have all but disappeared now and I had really hoped that they would continue to hang around a bit longer so I could have another chance at photographing the drakes up close while they performed their courtship displays. Who knows though, maybe a few will return to the pond before they head to their breeding grounds. You just never know what will turn up.

Life is good.



  1. Patty Chadwick February 3, 2018 at 8:05 am

    Golden Eyes are such elegant birds…this is a very beautiful as well as interesting shot…

  2. Marie Read February 3, 2018 at 6:01 am

    Great behavior shot…wish I could photograph it too…the goldeneye are so distant where I live…

  3. Liz Cormack February 3, 2018 at 5:29 am

    I haven’t seen courtship displays among the Common Goldeneyes yet but have seen it with the Common Mergansers. I laugh when I see males so into their courtship display that they haven’t realized the females are no longer around.

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