Common Goldeneye – A Duck That Earned Its Genus Name In Spades!

I literally have such a big head that they had to special-order a cap large enough to fit me when I graduated from high school. And when I was married (long ago) my wife used to tease me by affectionately calling me “buffalo-head” (both true stories).

But I have nothing on the male Common Goldeneye.

Beucephala, the genus name of this species, is derived from ancient Greek and means “bullheaded” and that’s not a reference to being strong-willed. Instead it’s referring to their very large head.


1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 800, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

This photo of a male in breeding plumage, taken two days ago at a local pond, illustrates the point. At least at this angle his head appears to be about half as big as his entire body. I’m unsure about exactly what makes it so big – is it actually a large head structurally or is it an effect of the darker feathers on the head and upper neck that appear to be longer than the rest so when they’re erected it makes the head seem huge? Or is it both? I attempted to research the subject but came up empty.

I chose this particular photo because it shows the juncture of those two types/colors of feathers so well at the back of the lower neck. A brief review of my photos of the species suggests that the female shares the large-headed trait but perhaps not to such an exaggerated degree as the male.

Whatever the cause I’ll admit to feeling a special affinity for my big-headed avian brother… 🙂




18 comments to Common Goldeneye – A Duck That Earned Its Genus Name In Spades!

  • Jane Chesebrough

    One of my favourite ducks!

  • CharlotteNorton

    Marvelous shot Ron! The comments, LOL

  • Patty Chadwick

    The main reason you’re not a “cool dude” is that your head isn’t quite as beautiful as the Golden Eye’s…close, but his wins because of the iridescence….sorry!!!

  • Nancy Blake

    I love Goldeneyes, maybe it is a Taurus thing? (May 5, and stubborn.

  • Judy Gusick

    Great shot showing head size and coloring. 🙂 Better than being a “pin head” I suppose! 🙂 Whatever works. 🙂

  • Susan Stone

    Another Taurus here (May 4), so I like what Marty said. 🙂 Except my “big” head is probably more like a “pig” head. Or bull head. I’ve never noticed the large head on the odd occasions when I’ve seen Goldeneyes (which were a long time ago), but is very clear in this great photo.

  • Patty Chadwick

    Interesting shot…have seen “cool dude” guys comb their hair that way…if you think you had a big head when you were in HS, it must be really huge now…your fans are so appreciative of your work, your comments, information, education, integrity and ethics–and freely say so— it’s a wonder your neck can even hold your head up!!! Your motto should be, “I’m not conceited, but I should be!”…..

  • frank sheets

    That’s a great shot Ron. The head angle is perfect. I am wondering whether the angle of the birds body to you has something to do the the apparent largeness of the head. I suspect, if the bird’s body was more parallel to you would the head seem as large? Once again, thanks for the post.

    • Well, I don’t know, Frank. Seems to me that would more likely be true if the bird were turned 180° with his head closer to us than his body. Seems to me that with his head on the far side of his body the opposite effect would occur…

  • Marty K

    As a Taurus, I can identify with being both big-headed AND bull-headed! 😉 I’m convinced that our shared large cap size is due to the enormous brain power contained within.

    As for the bird, the large head makes it easier to show off that gorgeous plumage!